Honoring Lilith Part 1: The Tale of the Screech Owl Girl (or, a Note to the Daughter I’ll Never Bear)

Originally published in Lilith: Queen of the Desert (2010) by Anya Kless

What does the screech owl weave
In the night time star’s dream
Hanging over the world dome
Where the jackals sing
And hyenas laugh—
Where the nighttime beasts roam
And the satyrs drink and dance
Is where she, too, will lounge
When her weaving picture’s done.

Open up your jewelry box, my daughter—
The one with the pearl inlay, and porcelain ballerina
Who spins upon a single toe;
The one which sings so softly
And once did lull you to sleep on crying nights;
The one which holds that part of you
That would wear short skirts
And tight read shirts
The part that would dance with men at night
Drink her fill and eat her favorite foods.
Open up your jewelry box, my daughter
And look carefully upon her.

The screech owl does lay her mournful scream
Upon us as we sleep
To shake us from our dreams
To bring us to where the moon reigns high
Where the wolves bay at one another
From either side of the quickly flowing river.
We are the crayfish in this scene
To drown or not to drown
We must swim up this stream.

Within your jewelry box there is a mirror
Which fits as a key in a lock to your palm;
Which has a back of white gold
Formed carefully as poppy petals
Cradling its treasured reflection.
Oh dear daughter of mine
Gaze into this looking glass
And look into your eyes
Look into them deeply
Until at last you see her there.

They would bound the screech owl’s wings
Pull the feather from her flesh
And fold her into porcelain.
They’d melt her down and pour her as a ballerina
And lock her in a pear-inlaid box
Complete with lullabies.

Beside your mirror there lies a comb
Carved so carefully out of the finest bone.
My daughter, my dear
Lift this to your flaming hair
And loose the gnarled knots, the dirt and leaves
That had collected there;
Lift this to your flaming hair and comb the locks
Watching yourself in the mirror,
Collect all the strength and beauty to be possessed
To shine like moons inside your eyes.

The screech owl has
So many sad songs to sing
Her words did catch my ears
Like a hook in the gills of a fish
And dragged me from my cradled
Whereabouts I picked up her solemn tale.

At last within your jewelry box, my love
You’ll find a seed to be sown.
Do plant it in the soot black earth
And wait for it to grow.
The life that springs from tree sprigs spring
With much a price to pay.
Pluck the fruits from the branches
Of your well-tended crops
Comb these knots and roots and things from your hair
Hesitate not to admire your own skin
And eat the sweetest, reddest fruits you’d find.

Let me tell you now, my injured child
The tale so woeful and grim
Of the rape of the screech owl girl
And the child she buried within.

Sweet soft child of mine
Look yourself in the mirror
Comb the last of the leaves from your hair—
Wipe it from your mind.
Pretend the bruises are not there
And look upon your skin
As pale as any marble has ever been.
Admire the softness of your breasts
The elegance of your sweetened neck
The moon-like shimmer in your eyes
The rubies which repose upon your lips
And wonder at your soft-sweet thighs
Liquid as fresh milk.
And find your feet amazing, sweet and small
And toughened to the earthen stones
And gaze upon your tapered fingers
Upon your strengthened palm
Which may create anything
At any will you’d have.

Now daughter listen to me
And you listen to me well.
This is the reason you’ll never see day
This is the reason you’ll never know night:
These dreams which we so boldly weave
So quickly turn upon their stitch-master maker
To swallow them up in nightmare.

They called the screech owl girl demon
For from her loins were born these words:
All yes’s and all no’s
And when they came upon her
She dared to push them back
For rather that she would
Hold her place beside them
And not beneath.

And so each babe she bore
The tore off of her breast.
They threw them in the fires, you see,
And drown them in the seas.
Wailing wild the screech owl girl became
And in her terrible fury
She tore their babies from their breasts
Just as they’d dare to tear hers
And at last she had become
The demon they had feared.

Within her daughters, all of us
Lies a seed of hers
To teach us of our strengths
But taught to bury it deep
We often never live to see it grow.
This for you I’d have not, my child.
But rather I’d have you see this seed sown
And live to see it grow
To witness the leaves unfurl to the sun
And the roots to climb within the earth
And spread throughout the ground;
I’d have for you a world where
Sex was magic, and magic not taboo;
But this world, it is not so.

The screech owl saw this sight
Where pulled out of her bed
They cut her golden hair
Called her “whore of whores”
And laid her out for all to see
And when she pushed them back from her
When she scratched and bit and fought
They called her wild and crazy witch
Damned and hated by their god.

And so I’ve seen you in the woods
Laying soft and broken
Weeping where my hand cannot reach
To dry your bruising eyes.
Beside you I do see
The pearl inlaid wooden box
Its contents on the ground.
Gather them up my dear child
And taken them under your arm.
Together we shall throw them in the fire
And I’ll hold you while they burn.

Your mirror has been shattered
Your comb it has been broken
Your seed was stolen from you
And so you’ll dance no more.

Goodnight, goodnight, forever goodnight.
Lift your arms and shake your fiery mane
And let me sing to you
The tale of the screech owl girl
For here I part with you
Before you’ve come to be.

Goodbye, goodbye, forever goodbye
Sweet child of mine
And if you see the screech owl girl
Be she man, woman or child
Maiden, weeping mother or crone
Sit beside her and give her a listen—
Can you imagine the tales she’ll tell?


3 thoughts on “Honoring Lilith Part 1: The Tale of the Screech Owl Girl (or, a Note to the Daughter I’ll Never Bear)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s