In the Ear of the Owl

Hayden Murphy
Roncadora Press, £10
by Hayden Murphy

New Poems

May 20, 2019 | by Hayden Murphy



In the ages of Owls his companions

Were the bipeds with hands. No beak,

No plumage, round shaped feet, no talons,

No hunting skills,

No talent

Apart from words.

Ancestor Owl learnt from Cousin Kestrel

To understand, to calibrate the edge

That borders celebration in their gift of tongues.

That which they call laughter. It was more acceptable

(at first) to what in their rondo of sounds

They called music.

Time passes and alters all, even in the ages of Owl.

Now in the womb of thought lies the heart

Of silence

Awaiting the birth

Of the music that is shared laughter.

In the ear of the Owl

Humans have nothing else worth hearing.




Owl’s companion in a Limerick garden

Was a boy child, a biped with small hands and pink skin.

Usually in the company of a she-mother, addressed as

“Grand”. Black plumed with a tight fitting white skullcap.

A fur covered four legged creature called Cat

Sat guard between them


The black-plumed biped guided the boy-child

To feed me with white coloured liquid that congealed

Into sour-tasting water when the rains came.

The black-cowled one would later give me a wood-plate

Of mouse, held down by a metal bar that sometimes

Had yellow-mould lumps that tasted of both

Sour-water and the presence of Cat.




My broken wing in winter

Was home to spiders,

Held together by strong cobweb.

In summer bees brought in their honey

To weld the feathers to the bone.

In autumn i melted sugar and spider

On the castle of sand and stone

The boy-child built for me and slept.

Later, when we were alone, the she-mother

Would lift me, place me on soft grasses

That smelt of mouse.

Though also at times the bitter taste of Cat.

This became the comfort of Spring.

There was a second and third Spring.

Then I died.




Bloomsday Owl is unheard

In the Joyce book.

Unseen by the academics.

But exists



Dignam’s lost descant,

Descartes before the hearse,

Owl speak:  Quaquaquaquaqua.


Bloomsday Owl is  a figure

Of frenzy in Buchner’s Wozzeck.

In Schubert’s symphony. It has flight

In common. An unfinished element



His presence is unseen.


If the eyes had not been done with

Gloucester would have glimpsed


Doing the nighttime shuffle

With Godot.

For Barry Mc Govern




Nor is there an Owl in Yeats’s Purgatory.

Only the burn out presence of another

In a designated Limbo.


Owls have more respect for the eyes

Of the soul than to allow them

No place in the heart.


Silly are the bipeds with hands

Who do not use them to hug together

The feathers of those who have known

How to fly

but no longer need to

In case they elide with the sun

And blot out the moon.


Owl is, with ancestor Icarus, knowing

Now is the time to “Appease

The misery of the living and the remorse

Of the dead.”




Hokusai, at sunbreak, drew an image of a lion.

Threw it into the air. To roam. To cleanse the day.


Unknown to most Basho reincarnated as Owl

Riding on the back of that lion.


Swoop and swallow the wind

Was his advice.


Swallow the air, become a marbled image.

Hide it beneath feathers.


So when night fell

It became a cairn of stars.


As the lion tells it

That is the Owl smile.




In the ear of the Owl

I whisper a prayer. Please

Allow your silence be mine.

No reconstructions. No interruptions

Of the dark by excuses for a past

That did not have time

For prayer.

Fluff up the wings Owl

The future looks cold.

No more                         I cannot speak

With him.                      So, I talk to him.

In the ear of the Owl

I place a prayer.


* * *


These poems are taken from In the Ear of the Owl by Hayden Murphy (Roncadora Press, 14 Corberry Avenue, Dumfries DG2 7QQ).




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