Owl Afternoon


Sitting in the woods
Miles from the important world
Fiddling with sticks and dead leaves
I see two fledgling owls
Flap gracelessly to earth
From a tall Douglas fir
Where their mother remains
Watching over them.
The young spotted owls
Tufts of down still poking out
Of their juvenile plumage
Seem bewildered as they stare straight ahead
And stand motionless
At the edge of the trail
As if awaiting instructions
About what to do next.
From her branch twenty feet above
Their mother speaks softly
In language almost beatifically tender
Without urgency or insistence
Seeming to express her confidence in them
To reassure them
That of course they will fly
And be good owls.
After several more minutes of watching
When I stand to go
One of the young owls suddenly takes off
And flies just above my head
Deeper into the forest
While the sibling
Not ready to solo quite yet
Stays put on the ground
In the unfailing embrace
Of its mother’s voice.

By Buff Bradley

Spotted owlets on tree branch


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has appeared in many print and online journals, including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Front Range Review, Hawai’i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday, Watershed Review, and others. He has published several collections of poems, most recently, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World. His interviews with soldiers who refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan became the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

Photo of young screech owl by Phillip Rubino

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