Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
12:00 AM 29th June 2024

Poem Of The Week: Barn Owl By Jack Thacker

Barn Owl

My cave drip footsteps fill the barn
before I sense the silent sound

of wing in darkness –

a carpet beat out of my dimension
sent from the vacuum of space,

a pure white blade

of soft steel with a baby face.
In torchlight I follow

its flight path

as it traces a scythe on the night sheet
and is posted through a hole

in velvet.

Jack Thacker’s poem of awe and wonder captures, as effectively as George Macbeth,* the spectral evanescence of an owl in nocturnal flight. As brief as the vision to which he is a very fleeting witness, the poet’s lines command no less than our undivided attention.

From the steady iambic rhythms of the opening couplet whose beat is a pulse of anticipation, the reader is alone in the darkness with the narrator, sharing the gravid silence. For the moment before the owl takes wing is a moment of cosmic significance, in the presence of an apparition whose movement distorts sensory awareness as though emergent from another temporal ‘dimension’.

Thacker’s artful concision – his sibilant metaphors cut perfectly into the fabric of a night sky whose ‘velvet’ swallows the bird like a Black Hole – is reinforced with near-oxymoronic vigour: the double-edged image of an instinctive killer with a baby face ‘scything’ across the sky before disappearing, is as compelling as the bird’s trajectory is fundamentally unknowable.

‘Barn Owl’ is taken from Going to Ground: An Anthology of Nature and Place, edited by Jon Woolcott, and published by Little Toller Books (2024). The poem is reproduced here with the kind permission of publisher and author. More information click here.

*For George Macbeth's poem 'Owl', see: Poem Of The Week: Owl By George Macbeth (1932-1992)