Screech owl cries

A Rhyme Royal for the dverse prompt this evening. Prompted by the sound of hunting owls, so loud at nightfall here.

Image ©Art Siegel


The first stars wake in autumn evening’s sky,

The sun has set long since, and hushed the air,

Beneath the earth, the night-touched creatures lie,

And wait for dark to leave their hidden lair.

The weeping in the house, too hard to bear,

I listen, ’neath the stars as darkness spreads,

And shiver at owl’s cry, what each heart dreads.


The moving finger stops above the roof,

Feathered portent perches high and screams.

We quail, as if we needed no more proof,

Our worst fears come to roost above the beams,

Death walks among the shadows, so it seems.

But in the east, moonrise casts golden light,

A smile, a sigh, death will not come tonight.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

45 thoughts on “Screech owl cries”

  1. The moonlight protects them. Nice description of hearing the weeping in the hidden lair. Reading this, I like the idea of two stanzas with this form making it, as Bjorn mentioned elsewhere, like a sonnet.

      1. Dog thinks he likes going out in the dark, because it really is dark—pitch. After ten minutes of walking along the narrow road that I can’t see and listening to the night noises, we both turn back.

  2. Very cool to tackle two stanzas–and it does give the piece closure. Very dark subject handled deftly while complimenting the prompt. I stayed with 10 syllable lines, so was too lazy to for two stanzas.

      1. I hit a wrong key as I was replying to your comment on my poem and it accidentally deleted, but I read it and I thank you. That I wrote a ‘real poem’ is a nice thing to hear. 🙂

      2. We don’t always write ‘real’ poems, but when we do, it’s a great satisfaction. WP deletes comments while I’m writing replies sometimes. The gremlins get bored.

  3. I love the description of evening in the first stanza, Jane, it’s like looking out of my window, except for the weeping in the house. I love the lines:
    ‘The moving finger stops above the roof,
    Feathered portent perches high and screams’.
    It got me wondering where our owls have disappeared to. I haven’t heard them in a while.

    1. I say I hope your owls come back, but then again, not too close 🙂 They nested in the attic here until husband mended the shutters. They weren’t best pleased. The old lady who lived here before us had tied tin foil streamers to the beams of the awning by the barn to stop birds roosting (and shitting) in front of the door. The owls ripped them to shreds and dumped lots of pellets in front of the door in retaliation.

  4. An absorbing tale with a three-part structure told in two dainty stanzas. Thank you for showing us how to rock the form with style. Interesting that owls remind you of cats (as you told Kim above), because they are literally called “cat-faced eagles” in Chinese.

      1. Or pest control? While traditional Chinese could put anything into their mouths, owls and cats weren’t very (note I said “very”) common culinary choices — possibly owing to that practical utility. From the etymology, I believe the Chinese think the two animals share similar facial features (or that our ancestors have too extraordinary an imagination).

      2. When an owl stares at you from a tree, you could think it was a cat. Good point about pest control. As in all peasant cultures (unless it’s a particularly brutish, cruel and stupid peasant culture), you don’t kill useful animals and cats and owls are both useful.

      3. Ah! That makes perfect sense. Well, when it comes to the kitchen, the traditionally cruel Chinese farmed and consumed many a dog but very few oxen — and might think that the beef-eating west was rather brutish. lol

      4. Very likely. They’re getting a taste for beef now though, and I believe there’s a deal of opposition to dog-eating in China. Things change. Thank goodness!

  5. SO VERY WELL DONE! The atmosphere is palpable…this is an eery write and the feelings, the images, all come shining through the form. You’ve not let the form slow you down. This is quite a write….you should repost for halloween! But somehow, in my mind, it is grander than that fun holiday.

    1. Thank you, Lillian. It’s a form I enjoy. Halloween is a very serious affair where I come from, though, when the door to the otherworld opens, the dead come back for a visit, and when winter, the dark part of the year, officially begins.

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