Journal of Writing & Environment

“Portrait of Young Woman as Red-Headed Woodpecker”



after Aviary (Red-Headed Woodpecker/threatened), a c-print by Sara Angelucci, 2013


Though her ancestors hollowed out

their homes from dead trees,

she pictures herself in the finest parlor,

poised on a settee, her scarlet head brilliant


against the gold damask wallpaper.

The jaunty black headpiece, the drop earrings,

the collar like a gardenia spilling petals

down her white breast—all chosen


to show where she belongs.

Even, she hopes, her hair—

pulled back tight above her ears,

a few tendrils frizzed and loosened


to frame her pale forehead.

She imagines waiting for her suitor,

or suitors, her black and white wings

spread around herself like a skirt.


She is listening for the grandfather clock

when the shutter’s release brings her back.

You cannot tell if, beneath her red feathers,

her cheeks flush. Her beak points at you


like a knife. She knows where you’d keep her:

beside the corals and conch shells,

the crumbling nests and blown-out eggs,

locked like a specimen behind a glass door.