Friday, 23 of February of 2018

Tag » Arkansas rivers

Jane McGarry – Ivory Bill Woodpecker


The ivory billed woodpecker is alive
spirit of river bottom bayous
ghost of the cypress swamp

extinct for 50, 60, 70 years
or so we thought

the ivory bill is alive
spotted first by a kayaker:
he pulled his paddle from the water
and leaned back
to drift a bit
in the still, February morning

and the big bird swooped in front of him
landed on a snag
craned its neck in herky-jerky rhythm
and flew off

enough to see
the distinct white-black wings
the straight flight through the trees
the large light bill

the ivory bill is alive
some small scrap population
along Arkansas rivers,
the Cache and the White
in the wet woods along the lower Mississippi

amid the welter of gone and going species
birds crustaceans insects spiders salamanders
orchids sandworts meadow voles milkweed butterflies
amid the flood of dead and dying creatures
the tsunami of extinction
triggered by the earthquake of us

the ivory bill is alive
such a beauty too
huge crested woody woodpecker head
ivory billed woodpecker by funny bugbill like a scimitar
made to shatter wood
bold black and white art-deco wings
crimson cap

this is a bird schoolkids will love
grandmas, truckdrivers, mailmen, movie stars
this is a bird America can love
unlike the willow flycatcher
or the spotted owl
this big bird has charisma

thank you ivory bill
for the dollars already flooding this project
for the happy ending and new beginning
for a feel-good news feature that might do good
save some swamp woods
raise awareness
let the people into the conservation story
help us stand some ground
against our ripping ravaging resource consumption

thanks, nature conservancy
quietly buying habitat for years
38398_1147966515_largeacre by acre
where the woodpecker was rumored
thanks ornithologists
bird men and women
who wept when they spotted the ivory bill
after lifetimes of hope
thanks volunteers, donors, scientists
searching for nest holes in the trees
measuring scars on bark
installing recorders in the swamp
to catch the distinct double drum
of an ivory bill drilling a trunk

thanks to the paddler
who put down his paddle
and leaned back in his boat
and looked at the dawn bayou
taking in the quiet waters
the ancient, patient cypress trees
being there, aware,
ready to receive

when the ivory billed woodpecker
winging straight through the groves
of thousand year old trees
flew a beeline into the twenty-first century.

Jane McGarry
July-August 2005 Earth First!

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