Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Pileated Woodpecker

There is a road, white and featureless, tapering to the dark smudge of trees in the distance which are picked out in minute detail by dustings of fresh fallen snow. A pink-hued sky stretches overhead, tinted by a late afternoon sun completely hidden behind a wash of cloud.

There is an unending sense of stillness. A moment out of time, an old photograph, faded through the middle and sharp at the edges where the woods are black in the muted light. Cold drapes heavily over everything. It would be bleak if not for the faint blush of sky.

And then a voice startles from the woods. The rising and falling peal of the Pileated Woodpecker cuts a path ahead of the bird, which appears from amidst one patch of forest and flies up the center of the road straight and true, a dart aimed with precision.

It cries and dips with unseen currents, its wings tucked neatly about its torpedo-shaped body. And then the wings unfold with a snap, white underneath edged in black, like a cloak lined in white satin. Within a beat the wings snap back into place, there is a flash of red from the crest atop its head and then it disappears into another patch of woods, on the path of the tree with the hole picked out ruthlessly months ago, from where chips once flew and littered the ground in a radiating semicircle.

In its wake the startling cry remains and an afterimage of white underwing like a secret revealed, that red flash. And then there is stillness, a white road and a pink-hued sky.


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  2. A beautiful poem to the landscape and this woodpecker! I've always admired your use of metaphor/simile, one of the writer's central tools in generating a sense of the concrete, a picture of solid and lifelike imagery. This blog is richly striking in its descriptive employment of such comparisons: Vivid Landscape - snow is dust, clouds a wash on a canvas, the cold heavy drapes, the pink sky blushes, the landscape an old and faded photograph; The Woodpecker - its bell cry peals and cuts a flight path, the bird's movement becomes a swift dart and a torpedo, wings unfold "like a cloak in white satin", the bird's cry and the bird's white underwing now a mere afterimage "are like a secret revealed." The scene concludes by returning to the establishing picture, coming full circle as we are left with the "white road and pink-hued sky." Lovely use of symmetry - it all becomes an organic whole. Plaudits!