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"Who Cooks for You?"

A Barred Owl 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.

This poem is one of my favorites for many reasons. Students react beautifully when they figure out what it is saying. But it also warns about the dangers of "domesticating fear!"

Have we diluted reality too much for our children? Is the dark not something that needs to be awed, prepared for, taken seriously?

Listen carefully to this song/call/ warning. What does it mean in the world of the owl? What does it resemble in the world of humankind? Is it a Siren Sound? What do we tell the children?


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