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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Now that his adulthood has been revoked by the DVLA,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.



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