This entry is part 1 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Dawn: in absolute silence,
a pileated woodpecker
hitches its way up
a locust trunk, silhouette
pivoting like a pawl
on an invisible ratchet—

consider this early
summons, this parking
ticket—momentary stay
before the hubbub
and transmission
of gears.

Luisa A. Igloria

* * *

I auto-post links to new blog entries from all my sites on Facebook, to the annoyance of some of my contacts there, I’m sure. The Morning Porch, with its entries designed to fit into a single tweet or Identica notice, also fits handily in a Facebook update, so is probably read by almost as many people there as it is on Twitter. This morning, one of those Facebook readers was Luisa A. Igloria, who was moved to reorganize my words into lyric verse and add a second stanza of her own.

One sometimes hesitates to use a mechanical image to describe a wild creature, but I was quite pleased with the ratchet image this morning when I finally came up with it, after a couple hours of off-and-on mulling, because I think it accurately conveys both the shape and motion of a pileated climbing a tree to someone who has never seen one — the vast majority of my readership, I imagine. Also, how often to you get to use a cool word like “pawl”? How wonderful then to see my lines remixed into a poem! And I was impressed by how much multivalence Luisa was able to pack in with her deft word-choices.


Series Navigation“Findings”: the missing Morning Porch poems →


22 Replies to “Stay”

    1. Well, it’s known as whatever works. And today, let me tell you, Facebook was barely working, emailing notices hours late. To paraphrase Churchill, it’s the worst social network in the world, but it’s better than all the others.

    1. “Pileated” is a word I’ve never used outside of the specific name for the second-largest woodpecker in the U.S. And I think this is the first I’ve ever used “pawl” — in most contexts the less exact “ratchet” would suffice.

      1. Yes! I was riveted! But they moved around enough, none of my camera attempts came out. This was before I had digital. “Supremely strange” is a very good way to describe them. :)

  1. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t find ‘pileated’ in the Oxford dictionary or any other dictionary I have. Did find ‘pawl’ though. Thanks for the enjoyable lesson-via-poetry.

    1. I always just use Google — and click on the Free Dictionary, which compiles (steals?) info from all the online dictionaries. For pileated, it has this from the American Heritage Dictionary:

      1. Botany Having a pileus.
      2. Having a crest covering the pileum. Used of a bird.
      [From Latin pileatus, wearing a pileus, from pileus, felt cap.]

      More to the point, Googling “pileated woodpecker” will give you a picture and life history of the bird. Always use the Google.

  2. Presumptive of me, I suppose, but I suspect most of your readers are too young to have grown up with the fusion of mechanical and natural that was the ubiquitous pileated woodpecker that bobbed back and forth above the toothpick container, plucking them out one by one…

    The movement of the dinner table toy perfectly captured the repetitive “hitching” of the bird.

    Very nice.

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