Pileated Woodpecker



Larger than a crow and flapping like one,

white wings edged with black

feather tips separated like fingertips,

he landed on the broken trunk of an oak

in the woods behind my house.  His scarlet crest!

A diamond flag—the kind you find on buoys

or the finish line. When his beak drilled

for ants, wood shavings sprayed in arches.  

I’d waited all my life to see him

and when I did there was no doubt.

He was, as the bird book said,



I only saw him because the phone rang,

dislodging me from my computer.

I took the phone to the window 

and narrated play-by-play to my sister

three thousand miles away as he moved through

my own back yard. She taught me a blessing

for first-time events and we sang

she-he-heyanu in praise.


Yes, crazy middle-aged sisters

singing about a woodpecker;

we were always underachievers.



First published in The Blue Bear Review