He's the red-bellied random thing
in somebody's painting of a forest—
swallowed by trees, a head poking more air
than wood, gawky, stranded on a tiptoe foot.

Once he got angry, dived at a sparrow,
lost his balance, fell out of the sky.
He's got a humbler tapping now,
could be a census taker, actuary—

until he just can't take it anymore
and bangs rackety-jackhammer
at hollow trees, a self-shot
bullet, an earnest paradigm

of something. Look at him, head up,
that perky flash of red, singular
spine straight as a nail. He's focused,
even a little fierce. Imagine you’re

an old tree with rot, leaning, hanging on,
to offer yourself to his stroke,
his zeal, the manic whack of self on wood.
If you were his dad, you’d worry.

But if you were a bug, you’d be scared,
at least a little. If you were a bug,
you’d get out of his way.

 

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