Skip to main content
By Richard Wilbur

The warping night air having brought the boom

Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,

We tell the wakened child that all she heard

Was an odd question from a forest bird,

Asking of us, if rightly listened to,

“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”


Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,

Can also thus domesticate a fear,

And send a small child back to sleep at night

Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight

Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw

Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.


Richard Wilbur, "A Barred Owl" from Mayflies: New Poems and Translations. Copyright © 2000 by Richard Wilbur.  Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Source: Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (Harcourt Inc., 2000)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living
  • Nature

Poet Bio

Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur began to write poetry in earnest only after experiencing the horrific chaos of battle during WW II service as an infantryman in Italy. No poet of his generation was more committed to careful, organized expression or more thoroughly mastered the forms and devices of traditional poetry; this conservative aesthetic and his deep love for “country things” link Wilbur to the Roman poet Horace and to his fellow American Robert Frost.  See More By This Poet

More By This Poet

More Poems about Arts & Sciences

Browse poems about Arts & Sciences

More Poems about Living

Browse poems about Living

More Poems about Nature

Browse poems about Nature