The barn owl’s fissured sky is not my grandmother
asleep in the guest bedroom without heat, shuttered.
The snow sticks, then melts, then freezes; it snows again.
She puts on her glasses, studies the soaps, and goes back to sleep.
We’re not allowed in. We’ve more important work to do:
I keep the starlings from the attic, and partition time for studies.
My sister cooks supper in lieu of rent; she sleeps in the oven,
invisibly deposits trays beneath doors, and tidies the bedrooms.
“Grandpa hired her,” Grandma whispers. “I think she’s creepy.”
Through the starlit creases nightly slip more strays.
We interpret what we’ve seen, the smoking pins of rockets.
Unmanned, but armed, like us, our stocked and wired attic:
a chrysanthemum plume of feathers, a mid-air shuffle to a branch,
a needle-drop screech on the grate. It’s still unharmed.
Grandma requests chopped steak, potatoes, whatever fits
under the door. As the god limbos in, her appetite increases.
I’ve repaired the exhaust fans and started a diary of wants,
a shopping list of sleep, a prayer directed to no god:
plaster of Paris to patch our yellowed foreheads, a degree
of sanity to shutter the cosmic wind’s damask reach.
Kevin Oberlin is the author of the chapbook Spotlit Girl (2008, Kent State UP). His poems have appeared recently in The London Reader, Roanoke Review, and Pacific REVIEW. He lives in Cincinnati without incident.