The 2River View 28.4 (Summer 2024)

Derek N. Otsuji

Trekking Through The Rain Forest, The Botanist Stumbles upon Doryopteris Angelica, “Guardian Angel of the Forest”

At a certain point in his trek he paused,
Opened his plant press kit, but couldn’t say
Why he’d done so or exactly what had caused
Him to stop there in the forest that day.
Then, three meters ahead, he saw the frond
Unfold like a green wing before his eyes—
Feathered—no, “intricately lobed,” beyond
anything he had seen before. Surprise
Cannot describe his thought at what he saw
—Guardian of the forest, in fern unfurled—
But something like astonishment and awe.
He’d take the specimen to show the world,
But now, having trespassed into the garden,
Didn’t know what to ask, permission or pardon.

Note: The narrative arc in this poem is taken from the botanist Ken Wood’s account of his discovery of this remarkable new species of fern. The name “guardian angel of the forrest” is his. The phrase “intricately lobed” in quotes is taken from a description of the species in Remains of a Rainbow, Rare Plants and Animals of Hawaii by David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.


On the Fight to Keep the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
on the Rolls of the Extant

It meant taking the witness at his word.
Since 1944, there’d been no news.
Though to credit the report was absurd.
A ghost, of hardwood swamps, not seen or heard
in years, now makes the rounds for interviews?
How could we take the witness at his word?

A brouhaha erupts about a bird.
A faked photograph threatens to confuse
the issue and render all claims absurd.

What video there is is just too blurred.
Ready experts brook no dissenting views.
They prepared to hand down the final word,

declare the case permanently interred,
though a single feather, and mounting clues
admit as possible, the patently absurd.

What had been settled, once again is stirred.
A paper is published with peer reviews.
A Lazarus has come to bring us word.

Though to credit the report is absurd.
Born on Oahu, Derek N. Otsuji is the author of The Kitchen of Small Hours (SIU Press 2021), featured in Honolulu Magazine’s “Essential Hawaii Books You Should Read.” He is a 2023 Longleaf Fellow in Poetry. Recent work has appeared in 32 Poems, Southern Review, and The Threepenny Review. website
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