The Science of Hope

Matthew Wimberley

Over the Atchafalaya Basin
my car is aimed toward Texas
my eyes glancing North over
the algae-slicked waterway,
wondering through the tangle

of swamp trees and vines
what could hide in the matchstick
cluster of Louisiana and up into Arkansas?
People talk of the dead coming back
to life. Some say they've seen
the Ivory-billed Woodpecker:
King of the Woodpeckers
Lord God Bird and Grail Bird.
Seventy years ago it was more
than a myth, people came to hear
the huff of wings, the chisel-like bill
boring into oak trees, a sound as sure

as a rifle shot. No one has heard
the kent-kent-kent
of one to another, distinct
from the honk of the porcupine

or the bleat of a newborn deer.
No one's found proof
of a hatched egg
the milk white shell left behind
like a piece of moon rock fallen
to Earth. As I press the gas pedal
closer to the floorboard I roll
the window down to let in a breeze,
a thick and humid gauze
laid over my skin. I pull
the car over to stare

down a waterway which bends
behind a curtain of Spanish Moss.
Even now the sun could be as
it was when the last of the Lord God Birds
woke, spread its white-tipped wings

in the splayed sun to reveal a luster
of black and blue feathers
cock his red-crested head

and from a roost in the canopy
breathe in the fragrance of swamp flowers
and then vanish forever.

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