Self-Portrait as Barred Owl

by Sarah Giragosian

When you stopped breathing,
I pushed off the dock
of my life and left all the goods
for the crows. I faceplanted into brick-

heavy depths, dragged the floodwaters
of my tears for some kind of sign
of the woman who raised me
to believe in miracles

of spring salamanders under frosted
boulders and pocket-sized forests
of moss and fungi in campfire beer bottles.
When you stopped breathing,

I shriveled to a shadow (yours?),
then an owl, meaning my face
curled into a jumbo-
ear. My fingers: the clenched X

of talons. My thoughts: switchblades.
When you stopped breathing,
I disinherited all your defend-the-nest
instincts, waited for more kitchen knives

to fall from the sky. I stormed, made camp
beneath glints of steel. Begged for your call.
Whatever outpost you’re on, whatever outer
limit, cry or call; I’ll be ready, poised

over the backwoods of my grief,
the hitch of my ongoingness.
Nudge me with your song or signal,
the song of your signal (who-who-who

cooks for you?), or out of place sound—
scattershot chitters or whistle calculated to reach me.
Grief is a vigil of earth and atmosphere,
and the closest to heaven is upending

boulders and bottles. Stricken
into silence, your daughter to the end,
I’m listening, testing the lengths
of your love again.

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