Parable of the Barred Owl

chris-new-southerner2KAIROS AND CRISIS

Contributing Editor


Thomas Merton defined kairos as “the time of urgent and providential decision,” a time that involves the risk of crisis. This sense of kairos, particularly here in the South, has much if not everything to do with race and religion. These things are bound to our identities as Southerners, whether accurately or stereotypically. They have been wellsprings of goodness and grace, and they have suffered as objects of hatred and ignorance. Always they have required response. Kairos and Crisis hopes to be one such response, seeking nothing less than healing for our places, our neighbors and ourselves.

April 19, 2013

Thoreau would have rejoiced that you are there,
haunting my yard from a sweet gum limb,
doing the “maniacal hooting for men”—
though I think he well knew the noise
we make can be maniacal enough.

Your call pierced night air, rattled
the windowpane by which I sat
scrolling the news, seeking
some solace, perhaps, some sign
that I am alive though bombs
have meant that some are not,
though their deaths have set
the talkers to talking their talk
of heaven and hell. To elaborate

on your cry is no avail. O Christ,
I recall your wail, spear splitting
the world’s side, a chasm echoing
only this unknown song mending pale
moonlight to the sleep of my children,
who rest unaware of the psalm
descending the sweet gum outside:

the call of a barred owl calling
as all barred owls have since the first
barred owl ever called, leaving unbroken

the sleep of children sleeping as all
children have since the first
child ever slept.

New Southerner contributing editor Christopher Martin lives his wife and their children in the northwest Georgia piedmont, where he studies creative writing at Kennesaw State University and edits the online journal Flycatcher. Chris is author of the poetry chapbook A Conference of Birds, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous places, such as Shambhala Sun, Still: The Journal, Drafthorse, Poecology, Ruminate Magazine and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia. He is currently the featured poet at Town Creek Poetry.

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  1. Wow! Lovelyl! I love the cadence and the contrast of nature and tragedy and Christ’s suffering.

  2. How readily we read mourning into the continuities of nature when the peace is broken by human violence, as so often. And perhaps we are right. Certainly seems so….

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