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.