There I was, glasses in hand, stumbling on,
a joyless morass leaking out in salty tears,
Resilience frayed into tattered fringes of despair.
Even the sunlight’s dance in the trees
could not gladden
this labyrinth of loud loneliness.
But the path goes only one way through the woods,
I could not leave it. Elsewhere,
the brush is too thick or the bog too muddy.
It’s certainty carried the legs on
that cold spring day,
when no other thought would be formed
about direction or destination.
I was simply, fixed on the way ahead,
dully aware of an occasional jogger passing
Hoping nobody would catch a glimpse, and betray their pity
for this hard face of despair
Their recognition of it,
would be more than I want to bear.
So I was grateful for a quiet stretch,
and solitude through the bog just coming alive in green
through winter’s detritus.
When just at the periphery of my bleary eye,
in a messy pile of woody roots, I caught
A bright scarlet comb on the forest floor,
and heard a loud knocking both, at once,
blurring, poking at my blunt senses.
I turn, and stop. The curious instinct larger than me,
red, feathered flicker gripping me inspite of myself.
I wipe the eyes and fix the glasses, to ascertain this surprise,
To which all that was wild and alive in me leapt back in response.
A bird with a perfectly straight red comb on its head,
Glassy eye, soft white throat, and zigzagging black line.
He is an astonishing sight in the heap of brown brush.
Elegantly, the Pileated Woodpecker hops around the logs,
Never minding me,
steadily working, busy, preoccupied,
absorbed in the search for life’s meaning: insects and joy.
Darting now to another branch low to the forest floor
He is everything I am not: fast, dazzling, sharp.
But I am, here, in his circle.
I am included. I am somebody. I am in the family of things that are alive.
My heart steadies at this avian debonair’s
How he goes about his business with certainty and purpose
dispels my doom.
“Thank you” I whisper, for letting me be here, next to you.
But equally suddenly, he is gone. Then, I might have seen a wispy flight, a flickering shadow in the trees.
He zips clean over the path, up into the high trees further into the woods,
Dark wings flashing, magnificent mohawk, lively and pert.
The path stretches on, beckoning,
But I am mollified, softened into ease,
Suddenly at home in reflected glory.
I am with kin
and the promise of belonging.