Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


Poem in Response to a Friend Likening a Woodpecker to a Hammer or a Drill

James Cronin
| poetry


The downy woodpecker’s pointed knocking
persistent as on a grandparent's back door is nothing
like a hammer drill, head slamming forward
and on snapping impact retracting a split moment
before slamming forth again to wood;
then, cocked muzzle aside, a brief eye–-
peering into the dark
and the red patch behind the ears
grows scarlet. One notices, regarding
the exterminator at work, the woodpecker is nothing
like a hammer--if anything, a drill
sergeant pausing mid-strike
to inspect a locker left open, probably by a teenager,
in a hasty rush to arms, before marching on;
also unmistakable is the sound
of the madman’s axe they hear in the forest
beyond the trees lining the schoolyard,
bone crack of the wood,
before the children know the difference.

But this is just a city, and I am merely sitting
at the curb beside an old boarding house
because I don’t want to break it yet with my getting up,
the clap-clap-clap, clap-clap, clap clap,
echoing off the eaves.
This endless knocking at our back door.

James Cronin‘s creative and nonfiction work has been featured in the Boston Globe Magazine, Fox Chase Review, and elsewhere. He is a writer and editor in Northern California.

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