At night they strip the remnants of a grapefruit lobbed aside by bikers rolling through to Tennessee. You're here because you're a collector, bearing your great-uncle Theo's collapsible net. As the passenger in a monster SUV, hired for the day from a dicey lot in downtown Winston-Salem, you felt it surf up Highway 421 towards the Blue Ridge Parkway,where the pine heat seeps in despite the windows being closed for the air-con. Now you're stopped at an overlook near Blowing Rock, beside a field full of life. The only sounds in the thin August air are the ticks of the slowly cooling engine. The torchlight on your head is dimmed to the ideal pitch. The grass springs back behind your heels. You pigeon-step. You hold back a sneeze. You collect. First, the Giant Swallowtails, vanilla and black, their tails shadowed on your shoes; then you up your game, to the Pipevines and Eastern Tigers. You couldn't care less what else you net in passing. You head for Asheville. Storm-clouds shake loose over Grandfather Mountain. A stag irrupts into the headlights' glare, its antlers and sinews freeze-framed, avoiding the hood by the merest nip, to tear through lightning the greenest way back home. And on you collect, like you're coveting the final side-plate of a Meissen dinner service hatched for Augustus the Strong in an edition of one. You collect.
the unseen sapsucker
drums five times