we were discussing cropdusters,
The Plague, logistics, ammonium
sulfite, the word weaponize when
I saw it through my dining room
window—a crested woodpecker
rappelling from trunk to trunk
on an invisible trapeze, claws
sunken noiselessly into thin bark.
We were too awed by alien red,
white and black plumage, military
sleekness, angular perfection
to think to alert the kids or grab
binoculars. From our safe place
behind glass, it seemed enormous.
Two feet from pointed carmine tip
to the longest glossy tailfeather.
Its beak could peck out one’s eyes.
We watched it fly low, only mildly
interested in hunting the insects
trapped inside the skin of native
vine maples. It moved in fluid,
stealthy flourishes between bases,
casing the perimeter, keeping well
under the radar of a resident eagle
nesting in a cedar outpost not far
from here. It advanced, finally,
from one host to the next, vanishing
as soundlessly as when it had emerged.
We look everyday now for its return,
wondering whether the eagle above
has found it yet, whether we will ever
know the outcome of that meeting.
Neighborhood boys report, meanwhile,
that the eyrie is empty. Innocently,
they blame it on the drought.
previously published in The Pedestal Magazine, October 2001
Tamara Sellman’s creative work has been published widely and internationally. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Something On Our Minds (Nov 2017), The Nervous Breakdown (Spring 2018), and Halfway Down the Stairs (Sept 2018). Her work has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Sellman works as a board-certified sleep health educator, healthcare journalist, and MS advocate/columnist.