Prehistoric Strigiformes by Patricia Hope

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Narrated by Patricia Hope

Prehistoric Strigiformes by Pat Hope
Illustration by Sue Babcock
Darkness descends on Earth.
Only a quarter moon, a million stars
light the way for nocturnes.

The bird flies in stealth
skimming above bush and bog—
wingspan, ten feet side-to-side.

It turns its head halfway around,
hears, sees, hones in on one rodent
running, desperate to hide.

Sees, even from one hundred yards,
hears the soft trample of earth,
senses the quickened heartbeat.

Zygodactyl claws stretch
apart, grab the creature.
The carnivore will eat its own kind

if rodents, fish, birds elude him.
It has few enemies. Dinosaurs
not seen for seven million years.

Its nemesis will not walk the earth
for another fifty-five million.
By then, its offspring will be smaller,

shorter wingspan, but with senses
as keen, adaptive to the fenland,
to the dry, cold-hot forest treetops,

in parliaments, studies, bazaars.
Despite the bird’s wisdom
man will believe it brings death

to their village, accuse it
of stealing their souls.
Today, it tears into lunch,

regurgitating bone and fur.
Belly full, it watches the sun rise
from its mangrove perch, raises

its lower eyelids, dreams.
Something primordial stirs
murky marsh, starless sky,

a garden where sleep
begets a mate, a boat
afloat for forty nights,

the olive branch not yet broken.


Author Bio: Patricia Hope is an award-winning writer with dozens of published works in magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and journals. Her latest work is a novel, Lonely Way Back Home, published in 2017.