Michael L. Ruffin

The Perch

I’ve been watching
a red-headed woodpecker.

Its occasional landing
on a place where a
tree limb used to be
transforms the ragged jut
into a majestic tower
from which the bird
surveys its future prospects.

The view is possible
only because the limb
is no longer there.
The woodpecker had
nothing to do with
the limb’s destruction
or decay, but it benefits
from its absence.

You might say that
the bird has many other
perches available to it,
and you would be right.

But in the moments
that I see it, it has
chosen that one—or
that one has chosen it—
and so it has that
particular perspective
from that particular perch
at that particular time.

I wonder if the woodpecker’s
subsequent woodpecking
involves a rhythmic “thank you”
for the unique perspectives
and opportunities that the
missing branch, whose
removal the bird had nothing
to do with, presents.

It doesn’t sound like
it’s wasting its time
wondering if it should
be pecking elsewhere.


Michael L. Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher living and working in Georgia. He posts poems on Instagram (@michaell.ruffin) and Twitter (@ruffinmichael). He is author of Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life and Praying with Matthew and other books. His poetry has appeared at New Verse News, Rat’s Ass Review, 3 Moon Magazine, and U-Rights Magazine.