Skip to main content

Barn Owl Pellet


Barn Owl Pellet


So this is what I’ve ended with.

A set of skulls upon my page –

two empty helmets still intact

which rest on their incisors.


The pack was black, tight-packed

in felt, dropped like a bomb

which might have scattered

bits and pieces, body parts


but as I pick the pack apart

finding in fur, nail-clipping ribs,

femora from a miniature dinosaur,

a mandible with its row of molars


aligned in order like corn on the cob –

here’s another to lay alongside –

all these little light-weight bones

bone-white and clean after their sojourn,


a burial of sorts, I find no trace

of flesh remaining – just disjointed

skeletal fragments wrapped in fur

to protect a delicate throat


now collected into sets.

All that remains of once warm mice,

shrews and voles, has been gathered up

 and rearranged upon this page.


I draw close. That which was rejected –

this dusty debris, this residue

is momentarily moved

by my own breath. 


Barn owl pellets are fascinating.

Not just for what they contain – more of that in a moment – and the way they're constructed so as not to scratch the owl's gullet with their burden of little sharp bones, but it's their non-smell, their simple cleanliness.  After all, they look like a turd, and as they're representing the unwanted residue, you'd assume they'd smell.

But they don’t, they’re soft yet firm, streamlined and intriguing.

Paradoxical things then, that invite being taken apart.

And inside that fur coated pack, all those bits and pieces, now all jumbled.

But they also make me want to put them back together again...

So I find myself teasing the bits and pieces out, thinking about what might constitute a set and then gathering them, which I must have done lots of times, but here I go again...

Of course, one could never reconstruct an entire little skeleton, try as one might, but once again here I am assembling bones, like an amateur dinosaur re-constructor.

Perhaps many creative activities are little more than rearranging what you've discovered – making new patterns, re-assembling in a fresh way, that might seem original...

As I pored over these interesting fragments, placing them very carefully on a clean white page, wondering what might belong to what, then changing my mind and moving things around, poetry was not on my mind at all.  Actually, I don't think I was thinking of anything, being subsumed in this little activity.

But thinking about it later, it struck me that it was like writing poetry.

So I share with you a little poem about little things, which comes in little verses of short lines – a description of a pointless exercise which nonetheless absorbed my attention, even though I'd done it before and knew it wouldn't come to very much.

But whether or not, and how much, it's original – whatever one means by that, and much as I would wish it to be – it was my experience, and my breath that momentarily moved the residue...

Well, there are lots of pellets on the barn floor, so I'm sure I'll take another one apart before too long.


Popular posts from this blog

The Three Hares

  The Three Hares We continue on our way running, running, running around held together tip to tip so I can hear what she can hear as well as her. And the other follows me in front of her – we are joined up by our ears so we follow, lead and follow running, running, running around we continue on our way. Running, running, running around – no cause for worry – what's to come has already been. The future's past – watch us here – we're going nowhere – the last is first and first is last. Our present moment sees us still although we seem to race – running, running, running around we continue. On our way running, running, running around hearing your persistent questions – why do you keep on asking? We cannot tell you any more. May you share your senses and find soft silence at your centre which is so close, while you go on running, running, running around. The turning of the year, with the various thoughts about the past and the future that c


I love the word Aftermath, with its apparent Anglo-Saxon simplicity. I read that it means after the mowing, perhaps a second or later mowing; more specifically, it can refer to the crop of grass which springs up after the mowing earlier in the summer. Even if the quality of the grass be criticised as not having the fragrance or sweetness of the first crop, or worse, dismissed as 'the bloomless aftermath', it is after all new growth – a reminder of what has been, and of what is yet to come. Aftermath Yes, the grass will grow again. There will be another season here upon these same old fields where sheep shall safely graze again as if it were the first occasion.   Fresh growth of flimsy blades will spring to feed a new-born generation here once more, in time, expected along with others, all those others drawn forth to prosper in the sun.   And some who left will come again remembering this place. A pair of swallows from the past will score the sky above the

The Signpost

Here’s a signpost – originally distinctive, being unique and handmade, and now even more so, with the evidence of ageing.   … numbers, distances, which way? While all signposts are interesting in their duty to inform, their presentation of choices and their simple declarative presence, I find this one special. It’s not just that it has much to say in terms of where you actually are, in which direction you might choose to go, how far your destination is (down to quarter mile accuracy) and even if your chosen method of transport is suitable. It’s also special in the simple elegance of its design, with the arms’ supports and the bevelled edges of the main post rising to that unexpected point. But the specialness goes further.  My friend James Ravilious took me there just at this time of year, over twenty years ago.  It was then upright and brilliant white, with crisp black letters. He certainly thought it was special, photographing it lovingly, in May 1988 ( Chawleigh Week Cross –