A Change of Heart, by R.T. Smith

A Change of Heart

 

Sunday night a widow in Winslow, Arkansas

came home to find an owl’s fully detailed

profile printed on her patio door as clear

as a photographic plate, and it startled her—

 

wings spanned wide and outsized eyes,

the feathers almost impossibly articulate.

The silhouette, she said, was akin to a ghost,

though she was a disbeliever, and there

 

in the flickery kitchen florescence, she fell.

Living solitary, she lay there for a while,

dreaming the many trials of her earlier life,

including previous encounters with the floor.

 

Owls, especially horned ones, as the ears

identified hers, may wear a protective powder

on their feathers, and since their wondrous

eyes can’t see glass, they’ll do this on occasion,

 

crash haphazard, as if blind, and leave

an image so precise you expect it to scream.

It’s best to string some beads or shells across

a wide window, but seldom are the birds

 

badly damaged. Even if stunned, casualties

are rare. The woman, however, bruised her

hip and was laid up a spell, at first bewildered,

then coming to terms with the flight

 

of a predator most likely out hunting until

that spectral threshold rushed up and struck

him down. The victim, Elise Pell, presently

recovering at her sister’s condo, says she’s

 

reading about all manner of creatures who fill

the air above us, ravenous and stealthy,

rumored messengers of death. She declares

such visitations can hardly be pure chance.

 

In fact, this incident has made her a believer,

as the face in the glass was ominously familiar,

though absent from our realm some seven years,

a husband with goggle eyes and a quick fist.

 

An animal, she says, is always just a beast,

but a human man can be a monster.

 

           – R. T. SMITH

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