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WOODPECKER / Maria Flook Shame doused him when he looked in bemused by my wallpaper, Bird of Paradise, in a shade too rich. I was sewing without needle or thread, a bit of vaudeville I employed against the sweltering day when nonsense overtakes strict privacy. There, in the double glass of my vanity, a trick mirror which multiplies the corners of a room so that every spider hatches four, I saw woodpeckers—a row of flames faltering like candelabra. Tm brightened by intrusions, pleased when I recall a hard name, when I find a lost guest in the hallways of daydreams. These brief visits seem honoring. But when I turned to face that flickering, the branch sagged like a curtain wire and my guest, that ruffled weight, was gone. Later, while touching at chores or sitting with my circle, those bored, full-lipped duplicates, the near, the far, the disappearing, I heard his hammering. A battered alphabet of one or two sharp consonants, something prayerful and overworked like chipping a long name upon a monument. He tapped with tolerance like someone knocking on the window of abandoned property. I thought it was my door or the door between two worlds, wherever the homeless are not home. Inspector of hollow hours, spy in a private ruins, he reads lichens like small compasses, the maps in wormwood where a few words were chiseled. Those bare trees left standing, a spectacle, silvered, more awakened than anything living. The Missouri Review · 73 ...


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