Red-bellied Woodpecker

text and haiku by Kristen Lindquist

A poet friend writes, “Haiku is the art of meaning what you don’t say.” My flaw as a haiku poet is I’m too narrative-minded. My impulse as a writer is to tell stories, make the connections between what I’m experiencing and what I’m feeling so the reader can be there with me. I think I need a lot more practice before I’ll actually write what a true haiku practitioner would consider a good haiku. It’s such a challenge to present the moment and let it stand alone, be what it is and not impose myself on it further. Today’s poem is not successful in that way. But there it is.


Red-bellied woodpeckers, while very common in southern states, were relatively rare in Maine until an incursion of hundreds of birds in fall 2005. Now they seem to be here to stay, and I occasionally encounter one in my neighborhood. This week I heard one calling nearby twice, but haven’t seen it yet this summer. It still seems so strange to me, to hear this bird I encounter regularly in Florida here in my own yard.

Global climate change has done more than just shift weather patterns. It’s been slowly but surely pushing southern bird species northward, where our many bird feeders also help keep them here. Fifty years ago, there were no mourning doves here, no cardinals or titmice. Thirty years ago or so, I remember seeing my first turkey vulture in this area. Red-bellies are just one of many even more recent arrivals.

Red-bellied woodpecker calling.
Absorbing this humid air
I think of melting ice caps.