May Swenson

(May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989 / Utah)

The Woods At Night


The binocular owl,
fastened to a limb
like a lantern
all night long,

sees where all
the other birds sleep:
towhee under leaves,
titmouse deep

in a twighouse,
sapsucker gripped
to a knothole lip,
redwing in the reeds,

swallow in the willow,
flicker in the oak -
but cannot see poor
whippoorwill

under the hill
in deadbrush nest,
who's awake, too -
with stricken eye

flayed by the moon
her brindled breast
repeats, repeats, repeats its plea
for cruelty.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Woods At Night by May Swenson )

  • Rookie Leslie Audes (12/4/2009 3:51:00 PM)

    i love this poem's cadence - and its sense of realism. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Judith Robinson (12/5/2008 1:00:00 PM)

    This poem is a marvel of rhythm and sound effect. Alliteration, assonance, internal and end rhyme are all here, and create a wonderful musicality. For example:
    stanza 1:
    The binocular owl, ('binocular owl' and 'long')
    fastened to a limb
    like a lantern (limb, like lantern, long, leaves, lip)
    all night long,
    and the repitition (which itself 'repeats, repeats, repeats' in last stanza) of the 'oo' 'ee' and 'w' sounds throughout the entire poem. Wonderful. (Report) Reply

Read all 2 comments »

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