from Douglas Oliver's An Island That Is All The World
Stevenson and the Owl
Tonight in New York I'm intimate in poetry with you:
may I take a moment in drelict Shelley Manor,
back then, in the Boscombe Sir Percy let be built?
I constantly see a truant boy post-war.
Beside trees in the park's seawood, pines,
he heard owls and found trees of another
life, branches, declivities, and shades
labelled in a sketchbook, purple, white lights, redder.
My sister's death now jocund. Her sketchbook of light,
medallions of my family drawn in it, the black cover
scratched with fundamental particle tracks.
Inside, a pencilled-in tree trunk falls like a shed door.
I take the truant moment: full of potential poetry,
and wait in the wood's centre, rhododendrons there,
tunnels of them whorling moonlight over the Channel,
sand dunes white as salt, a centre of uneasy savour.
It's not my personal story, exactly, to turn and see
black rectangular windows in the moonlit manor,
a harmless building that hadn't yet lit up with art,
though once Sir Percy acted in his private theatre.
Then the manor seemed small as our garden hen shed,
but an owl in acrid darkness called from its own centre;
it must have fluffed out large round the occulted talons.
Two branches in that wood rub wrists together.