Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Ivory Bill

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It's an afternoon of sorting socks,
folding sheets, a meeting
that needs an agenda, a chairperson,
an e-mail that must be composed and here
are your daughters and two friends
second-graders and four-year-olds
at the kitchen table
and with a list in your mouth, you cut apples,
pull a steaming bag of popcorn from the microwave
and the water bill, the situation
with the lawyer
but also the smell of salt and butter
Jonathan apples in August, and at your hip
the damp fuzz of braids, pony tails
light rain outside, a pile at the door
of boots and backpacks.

And why think now about
the ivory bill woodpecker, extinct
and then some hiker
who knew what to listen for
heard its horn-like call, the distinctive double rap
how there are whole clubs of birders now
who walk into the woods searching
for a once ruined thing, return with stories
of echoes and shadows, how one man caught
on camera an image: a ghost of white
in scrubby trees, and how
ornithologists with headphones
in some tiny room
listen so hopefully
to the deep call, the tap, tap.

Things extinguish here
that later you will search for
you will be an old woman, a hiker in the woods
covered in deet and with binoculars heavy on your neck
you will look for skittish shadows:
requests for milk, the swing of braids
the beat of so many hearts like hidden wings
or a small plate of red apple skins
the white part
all chewed out by tiny teeth


Lisa Ortiz has had poems appear in Literary Mama, Comstock Review, and Zyzzyva. She is mother to two daughters, ages four and seven.


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