Unexpected Appearance and Absence of Birds

A kingfisher in Cherokee, watching
For trout from a wire, inane chatter
Zinging through his clutched feet
While a stream talks to rocks below;

A scarlet tanager flitting from tree
To tree along the Appalachian Trail,
Lone flash of red among gray trunks
And shards of blue beyond;

Mere sound of leaf motion became
A hooded warbler, deep in laurel,
Gold mask and movement
Betraying his perch in the gloom;

Casual in the crown of a neighborhood pine,
A great crested gnatcatcher, and golden
Warblers in a small flock rushing
South through suburban woods;

The sun winked on me in a gorge
Where the shadow of an osprey
Moved upstream to merge
With shadows of unsuspecting fish.

Quail no longer by day, nor whippoorwills
By night, call to remind me of the field
Where red-winged blackbirds chirred
From stalks of dry milkweed.

A rumor of an ivory billed woodpecker
Circulates now and then. Those
Who spot it are treated like voices
Crying in the wilderness, less credible

Than a signature double-knock sound
That may have been limbs colliding
Far back in the bayou, but how
Often do limbs collide?

Matthew never mentioned
Birds and rumors of birds,
Perhaps because he thought
They were understood and we

Needed warning of war instead.
If he had not imbued those verses,
Bold as cardinals on winter snow,
With the terrible force of prophecy,

Then war might be extinct and the rumor
Of an ivory bill might be gospel. Imagine
The surprise of seeing a Carolina parakeetWhile counting passenger pigeons.

About the Author: Devon Marsh served as U.S. Navy pilot and now works as a risk manager for Wells Fargo Bank. Father of three and husband of a night-shift nurse, his poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Dark Matter, the Kakalak Anthology, and on http://devonmarsh.com/poetry/.