David Lewis Paget
The Owls in Chandler's Wood
The phone rang almost off the hook
But I got to it in time,
‘You’d better come here and take a look! ’
Said the voice of Esther Clyne.
I shook my head, rolled over in bed,
And said, ‘It’s after one!
It’s after one in the morning, Ess! ’
She said, ‘You’d better come! ’
Ess was an ornithologist
And she lived in Chandler’s Wood,
She’d never been an apologist
But demanded, when she could,
‘It’s pretty late, ’ I tried to state,
‘Can it wait until I’m free? ’
Her voice came rattling down the line,
‘Not now, just come and see! ’
I dropped the phone with a silent curse
As I scrambled out of bed,
And wondered which of her feathered friends
Had disturbed the woman’s head.
She’d called me out for a frigatebird
That she’d spotted from her snug,
And many a rare and crested tern,
And even a vagrant dove.
I wore a hat and a leather coat
It was getting cold outside,
Grabbed me a pair of driving gloves
And I took the four wheel drive,
The track was sticky in Chandler’s Wood
It had rained the day before,
And headed in through the Maple trees
To the house she called ‘Jackdaw’.
I pulled up by her verandah, she
Had been waiting there for me,
Handed over a walking stick,
‘To beat them off, you’ll see! ’
We walked together towards the lake
And there we saw old Jack,
The poor old guy was about to die,
Was lying flat on his back.
He seemed to have lost a lot of blood
It was streaked all over his face,
His shirt was tattered his trousers torn
There was blood all over the place,
And round him gathered the strangest group
That ever I’ve seen, no lies!
For there was a couple of hundred owls
And one had pecked out his eyes.
I started to raise the walking stick
‘Shall I beat them off with this? ’
She said she didn’t know what to do,
‘The stick is just to protect yourself
Should they suddenly attack,
Owls are nocturnal hunting birds,
We don’t want to end like Jack! ’
There were Tawny Owls and scrawny owls
And a Snowy Owl or two,
A couple of hundred Barn Owls
Up in the trees for a better view,
The Moon was reflected in their eyes
As they sat and stared us down,
Perched in the trees around us and
A-blink, not making a sound.
Esther motioned to come away,
‘We can’t do anything here,
We’ll come again in the morning when
The ground and the trees are clear.’
So we edged away and we got to pray
But neither would turn our back,
We knew if we tried to run away
We’d end up as dead as Jack.
No sooner back at the house, ‘Jackdaw’
We locked the shutters in place,
Bolted the front and laundry doors
And blocked the chimney piece,
Esther put on the kettle, thinking
To make a pot of tea,
But outside there was a whirring sound
So we both looked out to see.
The owls were perched on the hand rail
On the verandah, all in a line,
They stared at the house unblinking
Being so patient, biding their time,
They pecked their way through the telephone line,
We couldn’t call out by phone,
And then they set up a screeching that
Sent chills through me to the bone.
I knew all about the Hoot Owl
But I’d never have heard them screech,
If Esther hadn’t have called me up
When I should have been asleep.
The screeching rattled the window panes
Then Esther let out a howl,
And suddenly they all flew away,
There wasn’t a single owl!
They found her out in the woods today
I can’t say I was surprised,
They said it must be a bird of prey
Attacked, and pecked out her eyes.
I’ve never been back to Chandler’s Wood
Since I got that late night call,
But don’t want to end like Esther, so
I keep a gun on the wall.
10 October 2013
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- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- As I Grew Older, Langston Hughes