The High, Hunted Trees

New poem in Spiritus (Johns Hopkins University)

At the Constance du Pont Darden
Preserve in Sussex County, Virginia, where mature,
fire-resistant pines are the required nesting sites
for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.


This quiet grows from our not seeing
the bird we came to see
in the pine grove forged by fire,
in the hollow of her heartwood,

the quiet of a chapel empty
but for the sun that fills it
and names each tree “my lightfall,”
“my greenlit singer,” and lingers

as we pause on the pathway
to scout the high trees
for the telltale sign, a red cockade,
the little resistance badge he wears

like one of God’s revolutionaries,
ill-matched against encroachers
of silent spaces, but spared
by one who asked why we kill

the gift for gain, and bought
the woods. Leaving, we take
a last look at the pines climbing
the lordly shafts of sun.

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