Monday, December 8, 2014

The Last Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

"Heavy logging activity devastated the population of ivory-billed woodpeckers in the late 19th century. It was generally considered extinct in the 1920s when a pair turned up in Florida, only to be shot for specimens. By 1944, the last known ivory-billed woodpecker, a female, was gone." -- Studying a Vanishing Bird, Cornell Lab of Orinthology 

The Last Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

He found her, stayed with her, as fast as he could walk,
after the saws finished their business,
every morning she fluttered through remnants
calling, calling, calling,
echoes across puddles in craters where roots last held,
scattered leaves pressed into muddy treads

the primeval urgency of any creature,
calling, calling, calling,
maybe a shrill stretch of fear in her voice
like a rip

keep living is all that came back,
beating against her loud feathers, filling her small lungs,
opening her deft, gleaming white bill,
where are you
where are you

he writes what he sees, binoculars hung slack,
for weeks the same until --
he wakes again with clenched teeth,
unsure if he even wants to hear that cry yet again,
checks his watch for her cue,
looks into the scraggly saplings left behind like orphans,
and all he gets
is the heavy silence of a place so full,
now empty,

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