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