Two Poems

Great Horned Owl

Tecolote riconus

I. Family

It must be the ropes, I don’t want to make
too much of this—how a vulture
is pulled from a tree
and hung before he can
ever wake up.

II. Description

When I say iron
I am talking about the color
gray—as in feathers
close to the skin—
what it means to have
an owl so wet
he cannot fly.

III. Range

Brought from México to replace
the bald eagle in Gary, Indiana.
Next to fire—the only light—
waiting for pupils to expand
or collapse, but it was the sound of the train
non-stop, can’t be stopped
even for blood on the serrated edges
of feathers.

IV. Feeding Behavior

Emerge from the night in
another night. There are women
and a bounty on his head. One dozen
eggs and never enough chiles. The last thing
he put in his mouth
was the heart of a robin, so tiny
she wouldn’t miss it.

V. Nesting and Breeding

The fragrance is sun and grit. Gun powder
and all burn. A father, two clutches,
no explanation.

VI. Songs and Calls

Against window, open like an envelope,
a small burst of birds, and the territory
of a night sky. This is how
he holds—close hilt. Steel
in the moon, hungry, and his wings
barely touch home.


Owls     walk
            before              they can fly.
                        My father
            hated   the cold   after
being born in it.
                        Too close

            to the train tracks
the sound        is awful
                                    like the owl
            outside      his window
                        and the noise of cats
                                    thrown              from rooftops.
            I tried   to stay under the walnut tree
                        but the toast and rank of comino
                                    brought me back home
            where my father            taught me
the meaning of              hunger.
            The job required

tightened          talons
            around red hot cylinder heads
            one after another          on the shaker   
in the basement of the foundry

            where the fire    latched onto clothes      licked
nostrils              in a mist of black dust.   Sea coal
caked   eyelashes          and still

Rain over everything like sunlight,+this is how life begins:
Rain over everything likea set of           leather gloves   and   apron
            eight hours of breath     under mask       singed with soot.

When my father clipped             and cleaned     my nails
he        cut them           so
            short     they bled.

These poems are part of Poetry Northwest’s “Life List” feature.

Monica Rico is a Mexican American CantoMundo Fellow, Macondista, and Hopwood Graduate Poetry Award winner who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan’s HZWP and works as the Program Manager for the Bear River Writers’ Conference. Her manuscript PINION is the winner of the 2021 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry selected by Kaveh Akbar. Follow her at www.monicaricopoet.com.