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Clade Song 13

what the snowy owl meant

we found it on the side of the highway that leads
the longer way back home, splayed out

like a sunbather between the basalts. I was driving—
pulled the car over and we all

hiked back to see it, swelling with that strange
curiosity that comes from

finding a dead thing you can name.
it was the summer of funerals we couldn’t

attend – grief over the webcam speaker like mirage – delusional
water over blacktop. like every August, somebody

plowed a ditch with his tractor so the brush fire wouldn’t
spread, and somebody else drowned in the river.

the bird was half-stiff, headless, an almost-
thing, and a middle-aged man in a hatchback passed us

three times – first one way, then back to look, then again
the way he’d meant to go all along. I was trying not to be

what I always was: ungrateful; trying to remember all
the time my body had spent refusing

to fall into things that could hurt. and when R took the owl
by its wings and lifted it up into flight, white feather

and covert rippling in the
wind, I saw what it was: a renewal,

something from which we siphon tragedy
and breathe into it – life.


Briana Lubinski is from the sagebrush desert of eastern Washington but currently studying creative writing and Spanish on the Pacific coast at Western Washington University. Her work generally focuses on place, nostalgia, and all things living, dead, or somewhere in between. Her writing has appeared in the Scribendi and Jeopardy magazines, and she is currently working on her first poetry chapbook, which will likely go aggressively untitled until the last minute. She is a rock climber, nature enthusiast, and lover of objectively bad movies.