Lucia Perillo

When the old man said the woodpecker was gone for good, 

I told him, no the experts found one

down in the bayou, where had he been?


So big that when men saw it overhead

they were said to call out for the Lord.


We must not think the worst of the world, I said

because the old man could be a grumbler

of the sort who say that mankind feeds on what is beautiful 

and excretes shopping malls


(well he has never had to buy a curler.) 


But now the experts have retracted their discovery

and it’s the old man who’s gone for good

and the one thing that endures it seems:


those sixty-something ivory-billed woodpeckers 

dead in shallow drawers at Harvard

Museum of Natural History. Study specimens 

for which you do not need a natural pose, it’s more  

this thing is dead, let’s not pretend we didn’t kill it.


Bird after bird—and your heart ambushed 

by their conformity when one by one 

those drawers come rolling out.


Suddenly they’re smaller than they were.


And how do you explain the parallax?

No, you cannot, so roll the drawer back in.

Found In Volume 43, No. 04
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  • Perillo
Lucia Perillo
About the Author

Lucia Perillo's most recent book is On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Among her many honors are the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a MacArthur fellowship. She lived in Olympia, Washington before her death in 2016.