THE LAST LIVING IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER

In blue skies above the bayou,
And through an ancient cypress stand
Stretched far across the bottom land,
With briars of Cat Claw, climbing vines,
Snag boots, flowers, and clinging bines,
There dips and soars on outspread wing
The last iconic ghostly king.

Alighting on a hardwood snag,
Atop the leafless tree he preens
And peers across the swampy greens
For ivory bill and flash of black
And crest of same, but curving back,
For jagged stripes of shining white
Like lightning bolts in dark of night.

He drums his practiced double-rap
And listens for returning tap.
He tilts his head, his neck is bent.
And now he trumpets out his kent,
Then waits again; his message sent.
But no harmonic call comes back
Along the Choctawhatchee track.

The king strips bark, and peeling done,
He harpoons grubs on darting tongue.
He listens to the screech of hawks
And to a dirge of muffled squawks.
He hears the croak of throaty frogs,
And catches whiffs of rotting logs
'Neath shaded thickets mired in bogs.

A brilliant crest of vivid red
Crowns the noble, sovereign head,
His golden eyes, alert, supreme,
Still searches for that fading dream:
For mate, a queen, another start.
A haunted specter, set apart,
The old tree knocker loses heart.

High above the bayou waters
The Lord God Bird sleeps through the night
And in the morn resumes his flight.
Weary, and spent from endless quest,
Determined, hopeful, and possessed,
The miles of marsh don't overwhelm
The lonely ruler of the realm.

Copyright © Margaret Jane Jones

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