The Daughter of Owls
after Neil Gaiman
With my pellet, with my red long hair
never cut all my living years, I travel
day’s end as though it has strong wings,
as though my shift of pure clean white
could give me those wings, too.
Father? Fierce golden black-ringed eyes
searching front and back, his hunger
wide and full and deep with anger,
a wild wind through dark woods.
Mother: fairy? woman? no one
allowed to touch me after birth,
my body a weight in a basket.
Behind tall cross-laden walls I grew
wordless, with no knowledge of sin.
When men came to rape my beauty
I cowered, cried, called loudly out
in the only language feathers give:
shrill hoot, tight scream, raw screech.
My father heard and swooped at them
in moonlight with the darkest others
to claw and rip and swallow skin,
taste terror’s salty crimson flesh,
leave only bits of splintered bone,
bent buckles, hair, a few stained coins.
And now I haunt—half-bird, half-what—
the edge of night that has no name,
stories flying with my story
to ask the world how it could happen
and whom their dreams should blame.
For three and a half decades Katharyn Howd Machan, picking up where Rod Serling left off, has taught creative writing at Ithaca College in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Her specialty courses, besides in poetry, are Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, Women and Fairy Tales, and first-year seminars called Fairy Tales: The Hero’s Journey. Her poems have appeared in 32 published collections and many magazines, anthologies, and textbooks.