Malika Booker describes Becky Cherriman's Surprise of Barn Owl as 'an address and advisory narrative poem that unfolds effortlessly from line to line. The poet’s eloquent verse paragraphs capture the impact of aging and memory loss on an individual and their family members. '
Surprise of Barn Owl
Following Greg White’s ‘Taking The Wheel’
Now that his adulthood has been revoked by the DVLA,
you drive us home in Grandad’s
old, red Micra. Took months for him to relinquish
his licence though things had long been appearing that weren’t
– a tiger in the garden, men
moving around the house at night, the angel on his cheek.
Today, after patiently dissolving
paranoia into mugs of tea,
hearing him affix the wrong
names to objects or, worse, to us, I get
why you were reluctant to accept this
gift. You are cautiously
gearing into adulthood,
taking in what’s around you, like the…
black rabbit at the roadside. I draw
in my breath and you slow, its shiny blackness
burnished with meaning –
Oestra, Easter. An hour ago
your little cousins were hunting foil-wrapped eggs
in Grandad’s garden while he
sought out his wallet, a memory
of a sun-struck holiday with his wife.
I hate myself for failing
to decode his sentences, for not being wise enough to
unpick what is troubling you. I didn’t know
till now that your worst fear
is being forgotten,
that this is why you find it hard to be around him. Drive on –
surprise of barn owl in headlights!
Its third eyelid shifts
Owls can see into the dark
nights of our lives. They know things.
Son, these lessons are hard,
the corners sharp. Don’t travel too fast.
Give other drivers their space. Remember
your stopping distance.
And the mirrors. We eye
one another for moments only.
Rabbit. Owl. You. Me. Grandad. All of us
mysteries. All searching for them.
Turning back to the road. And what comes after.