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Bad Owls
by Becca Titus

My brother's voice was born broken.
He speaks in staccatos, jaws open apple-wide.
Once, a Cree girl in Montana told him

stuttering is laughable to owls

so he hates them. In younger dreams,
talons took off his tongue
and the forest filled with the laughter of birds.
He woke salt-caked, frantic,
checked the windows for eyes.

Raptors, he writes to me. Evil.
Haven't you seen Jurassic Park?
And sure, but I know the difference.

For me, it's their calls,
low and clear as cellos
that raise the question.
A sound that echoes, lacks edges,
shivers mice out of the brush.

But he likes the legends. If
they're omens of death
to the whole world,
why do we find them wise?

So what betrayal, that I, the eldest,
cherish the Elf, the White, the Laughing?
How unfair that I've paced in dark moss
and whispered: dive for me.

In picture books, he sees the ego of killers
and scoffs at their pellets.
I touch the page, their lucid indifference
necks like the undead
faces like clocks.


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