Sunday, December 06, 2020

Who "we" are in "Little Owl", by A. E. Stallings

A. E. Stallings's "Little Owl" begins with a "we" that seems to refer to all humans in general yet also to each individual human: "we" become "who we are" – our individual selves – because of "what sees us". But by the time "we" appears again, it refers to a particular experience that two people (most likely a couple) shared: seeing a Little Owl in an olive tree on the Greek island of Spetses. If the owl's gaze makes the couple "who we are", then it is the shared experience and the memory of it that constitute them as a couple, in an exclusive "we", rather than as individuals or humans in general. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 December)


[Previous post on this poem here]


Little Owl

A. E. Stallings, Like, 57


            (Athena noctua)


It’s not what we see, but what sees us

Makes us who we are.

Do you remember years ago on Spetses,

Under the evening star,

As the surf rolled and rolled on its glass dowel

We strolled along the sea road

And spied a little owl

Less a bird

Than a small clay jar

Balanced implausibly on an olive branch,

A drab still vessel attuned to whatever stirred,

Near or far:

Hedgehog shuffling among windfall of figs,

Gecko, mouse.

Then she swiveled the orbit of her gaze upon us

Like the Cyclops eye-beam of a lighthouse.

No comments: