Poem for a Rainy Day
I dropped another pill in the bottle today –
the brown one with the owl on it.
All in all that's forty now
(one for every day and night).
I found it in a junk shop
and I knew then what it was for.
When it is time
I hope I will have the strength to lift it.
23 July 1989
In Egyptian, Celtic, and Hindu cultures the symbolic meaning of the owl revolved around its role as guardian of the underworlds and a protector of the dead. In Athens, the silver four-drachma coin bore the image of the owl on the obverse side as a symbol of the city's patron, Athena Pronaia, the Greek goddess of wisdom. To the Gnostics the owl is associated with Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who apparently refused his advances. In Japan, owl pictures and figurines have been placed in homes to ward off famine or epidemics. You get where I’m coming from. And yet here’s something not in the poem: F. collected owls. She never had a bottle with an owl on it but if I’d seen one I’d certainly have bought her it. Even now I see cute owls and regret I she’s no longer a part of my life.
The number forty also has symbolic significance if you want it too. Heck, anything can become a symbol if you so choose. There’re loads of suggestions for what the colour brown might suggest. I don’t know why I picked it. Probably simply because pill bottles tend to be brown or amber to minimise the risk of photodegradation.
I’ve never seriously contemplated suicide and I’ve certainly never stocked up on pills for a rainy day but as I’ve said before I did get some comfort from the knowledge that not being there was always an option.