“The Lord God Bird” by Danusha Laméris

Danusha Laméris


Sixty-two years since the last sighting,
ornithologists say they’ve spotted one
somewhere along the lip of the White River
its pale beak, red crest, black and white featured tuxedo,
the last of the ivory-billed woodpeckers.
Could it be, they wonder
that the birds have gone deeper,
nested in the southern bottomland?
People kept killing them
to show in museums
nailing their bodies to planks.
Now the town is buzzing with tourists
armed with binoculars.
Isn’t this how it is? We want back
what we’ve taken, the way a child tries
to set the head back on a doll.
Jesus risen in white robes,
standing outside the door to his grave,
Houdini underwater, escaping the chained suitcase.
We want to know there is something
more powerful than destruction
so we destroy what we desire:
the lithe and fearsome tiger,
humans adorned in feathers and the skins of bison,
entire forests, quiet as cathedrals.
And then we want it back,
that thin strip of green, lush again,
the Lord God bird, as it was known
set back on its branch,
scaling bald patches into the rough bark.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
Tribute to African American Poets

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One thought on ““The Lord God Bird” by Danusha Laméris

  1. Loved this, as I am from Arkansas and familiar with the in-recent-years re-discovered ‘Lord God Bird.’ We often see his ‘cousin,’ the common pileated woodpecker. My Dad pointed it out to us, in the river bottoms of southeast Arkansas, as the ‘good-God’ bird, saying that when he called overhead with his raucous caw, people would say “Good-god! What’s that?” I am sure that at one time long ago these two were considered the same, and the slight distinctions of plumage and size were of no concern. If only we held the same regard for one another.

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