Two years ago, in record rain, the plums
grew big. A doe came every afternoon
to teach her fawns to feed on fallen fruit.
When she saw me, she’d lift her head,
look straight into my eyes, and stamp her foot.
Her way of stamping was unique, her hoof
held forward, smacking the ground
seven times: anapest, trochee, spondee.
I admired her fierce motherhood,
her daring, and aggression. I held my breath
through gunshots in November.
A new neighbor moved in, cut every tree
on his acres, and paved for a herd of vehicles
that overrode the deer migration path.
I saw no deer the following fall.
This year’s drought punished the garden.
The plum tree, encrusted with black knot,
lacked energy to bloom and bore no fruit.
When the sun began to fade on All Saints Day,
I heard echoes of my rustling as I raked leaves.
I saw a doe halt at the edge of my driveway.
We held still regarding each other, surprised.
She looked directly at me and stamped:
anapest, trochee, spondee.
When her tail flicked all clear,
I witnessed the elegant crossing of six does,
and lowered my head in submission.
Larger than a crow and flapping like one,
white wings edged with black
feather tips separated like fingertips,
he landed on the broken trunk of an oak
in the woods behind my house. His scarlet crest!
A diamond flag—the kind you find on buoys
or the finish line. When his loud beak drilled
for ants, wood shavings sprayed in arches.
I’d waited all my life to see him
and when I did there was no doubt.
He was, as the bird book said,
I noticed him only because the phone rang,
dislodging me from my computer.
I took the phone to the window
and narrated play-by-play to my sister
three thousand miles away as he moved through
oaks and pines. She taught me a blessing
for first-time events and we sang
she-he-heyanu in praise.
Yes, crazy middle-aged sisters
singing about a woodpecker;
we were always underachievers.
SARA BACKER‘s interests are limited to nature and human nature. Curious about the world, she has lived in three countries and traveled in twenty-two. She teaches freshman composition at U Mass Lowell. This year, her poems have appeared in Journal of Creative Compressed Arts, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, The Mayo Review, and PANK. Her interests include baking pie (all butter crust) and playing chess (badly). Her newest hobby is growing cactus.