After

On a mission through the school’s main hall

a casual glance through the glass wall

fresh mulch, a sea of woody brown

a few dead leaves scattered round

—Fall.

It registers after I pass

something else beyond the glass

something crumpled on the woody bed

a conspicuous spot of red.

I turn around. 

A bird, lying on the ground

flat on its back

speckled white and black

white claws curled, scarlet head.

Little woodpecker. Dead.

Flew into the glass wall, it’s clear

from the way it’s lying here.

A broken neck, I think

but then, then—I see it blink.

What comfort can I give?

Is it even going to live?

I mustn’t touch it, must let it be

I won’t have it die for fear of me.

The hall’s deserted, what to do

people are waiting for me, too

—I’ll hurry. I can never atone

for letting it die alone.

On my hasty return, a wondrous sight

the woodpecker, sitting upright

scarcely moving, still dazed.

I am amazed.

It opens one eye, tests its beak

assessing the damage wreaked

turns that stunning head

of breathtaking red.

I silently celebrate

as I watch and pray and wait

for that one eye remaining shut

to be all right, to open, to see—but

the instant it does, without warning

with a flurry of wings, off in the morning

he goes. I didn’t see him fall

from my side of this glass wall.

I’m just here, rejoicing, for his open eyes

his reclaimed strength, his reclaimed skies.

My heart goes with him, as he flies

—I saw him rise.

Just before he took flight again. A woodpecker happens to symbolize communication, opportunity, and awareness. How grateful I am to have seen him, to have witnessed his overcoming.

5 thoughts on “After

  1. This is lovely, Fran, and unfolds beautifully as a poem. And, oh the craft of that single word “Fall” and it’s multiple levels of meaning, that turning point. “Hope is the thing with feathers” and I’m so thankful for the swell of optimism and hope your poem creates.
    PS Did you know that’s a red-bellied woodpecker? They are much-appreciated visitors to my suet feeder here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Molly, for noting the use of “Fall” and for the Dickinson reference – hope is indeed “the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul.” I felt my humanity deeply and inadequately on seeing this beautiful bird lying so still on its back. Couldn’t believe it was alive – that eye blinking – I really thought it was dying and suffering terribly in the process. I wanted to help and didn’t know how. To to see it recuperate so quickly and take flight again is almost beyond my power to describe. Joy – exhilaration – even an aching of the heart: “Sings the tune without the words.” Yes – I knew it was a red-bellied woodpecker – so oddly named! The females’ red tint on their bellies hardly seems enough to warrant this. I’ve never seen a woodpecker up close before. So beautiful. It deserved an ode. I imagine your feeder is ablaze with color. 🙂

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  2. Oh, how I feared a sad ending, and cheered for the bird with you. I’m watching a spider now, just outside our kitchen window for weeks. Her respinning of the web day in and day out brings me a small joy.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I often think about the healing power of nature and writing, and how the desire for these are deeply embedded in us. Full of intricate simplicity, like your spinning spider. There’s such peace in it.

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