The Owl Light: A Poem Series by Deborah Fass

The Owl Light: A Poem Series by Deborah Fass

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Finalist : 8th Annual Contest in Poetry

  Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too…
                                                                  — Sei Shōnagon


   Is it for love, for hate

I kill the fly and let the moth

circle the bathroom light?




   Can you tell me,


     as oat grass?




  Where is the low bowl of moon

spilling autumn’s





  Who’s imitating who—

Me or the folds of dogwood buds

                                 concealing our pleasure?





                                     trace the surface of the water’s





                                                          If loss could be measured

                                    like brilliance, last bits of sun

on the disappearing hills




  While seven million people sleep

          a few hawk moths search for

                   crimson columbine

in near-extinct starlight




                            One foot in Holocene muck,

Hold tight the kite string—

                               Daytime moon




  Cicadas all day.                         

Crickets all night.

Who are you calling               






decay and                       

      the owl light




Notes on this Poem Series

This poem series is informed by the Japanese literary genre of zuihitsu (lit, “following the brush”), which was invented by the poet Sei Shōnagon, whose Pillow Book, completed in the year 1002, chronicles her life in the Heian court. In the Japanese literary tradition, zuihitsu more generally refers to a collection of notes, fragments, and observations about the writer’s personal life and immediate environment. In later centuries, zuihitsu contained the author’s reflections on the impermanence of the material world. Today, zuihitsu ranges from poetic fragments to short prose pieces.

The quote that serves as epigraph comes from a line of Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book, as translated by Ivan Morris.


Deborah FassDeborah Fass was born and raised in Los Angeles, went to Japan with a postgraduate Japanese Department of Education Research Fellowship (Literature), and now lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has won an Academy of American Poets Prize and has been featured on NPR. Her recent poetry collection is Where the Current Catches (Island Verse Editions, 2017).

Header photo by arthaximmo, courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.