CNF: The Hidden Owl

by Alisa Golden


Our owl doesn’t say who but a kind of scratchy what. We had been searching the tree for years, waiting for it to declare, warmer, warmer as we circled the base where the pellets lay, decorated with fur and tiny bones. But the owl, except for a few night calls, had eluded us. A chance meeting with a neighbor pointed us skyward. See that clump hanging down? And the smaller clump? Now go a foot to the left. We scanned the tree and found a set of tail feathers, toned Earl Grey and café au lait.

I went back daily to check the spot and was soon rewarded with the barn owl’s heart-shaped face, eyes closed, blanched almond nose quietly in place: the “nodding” owl a friend called my photograph. I caught a stranger and pointed up, but he looked the other way. Two twenty-somethings were as excited as I, and they took their own iOwls. Another man said, “Don’t tell anyone. They’ll throw sticks at it.”

Mystical Judaism whispers of thirty-six righteous people hidden in the world, unknown even to themselves. If they were missing or known, the world would come to an end. We must not reveal them, and each of us must behave as if we might be one. Perhaps, too, there are thirty-six hidden animals to watch over. This is the catch, the pause, the sadness that mingles with the find; one has to be restrained when sharing is part of the wonder.


Alisa Golden works with words, ink, and fibers, and is the editor of Star 82 Review. Her book art may be found in the special collections of libraries across the United States, and her stories, poems, and artwork have been published in Blink-Ink, Diagram, Nanoism, and The Pedestal, among others. She is the author of Making Handmade Books (Sterling/Lark). www.neverbook.com


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Twenty years ago, I met a man I was sure was a real Lamed-Vavnik, who worked at a bakery around the corner, who was kind to my child during difficult times. Although the man has moved on and our situation has changed, the owl’s palm tree is on the way to the bakery, which is still there. The owl is calm, like the man, and lets us stand close, quite a contrast to other owls of his kind, those who live in an abandoned barn on Mare Island, a former naval base. We once took a guided tour and were told to approach slowly so that we might see them. But no. At 150 feet, the owls heard us and shot out, a blur of wings. At present, our owl couple (yes, he has a longtime mate) have moved deeper into the palm tree. I still walk by and look up, and although I can’t see them anymore, I am pleased to know they are there. Our owls are urban owls and amazingly tolerant of us all.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now open. The reading period for standard submissions closes again December 15, 2022. Submit here.


03/20 • Claire Polders
03/27 • Beth Cleary
04/03 • Gargi Mehra
04/10 • Tina Wang
04/17 • Juliana Rappaport
04/24 • TBD