- Vol. 09
- Chapter 05
I see birds everywhere
I see lights in the sky
They’re following me
I’m the hummingbird
See the earth seems to bleed
Red, green and brown
I'm doing my best
To stay on the ground
I'm the hummingbird
I'm doing my best
Doing my best
Doing my best
Doing my best
Hummingbird is a song written and recorded by Nina Hynes exclusively for this issue of Visual Verse. Click here to listen and download the song. Nina is donating 100% of proceeds from this track to support Afro-Caribbean students leaving Ukraine.
A Hummingbird by a Lady
Everything happened on the week she saw the humming bird—her first apartment in the city and there was a climbing hibiscus vine outside her window with big red flowers, and the hummingbird would come and feed, it was that same week—her first week in the city, her first apartment, her first hummingbird and now she had to leave?
There was fire on the hills and the smoke was suddenly everywhere and her passport had expired and the lines at the grocery store were long and the embassy wouldn’t return her calls—but she saw the hummingbird for the first time, fluttering back and forth and hovering around the red hibiscus flowers, and it seemed like a sign that everything might work out.
Down the street on the promenade people gathered and exchanged food and supplies and stories and numbers: Call me if you need anything, call me if you want to talk later, and someone put up a box in the bookshop next to the cash register so that people could drop off requests of things needed, or notes of thoughts they needed to share, and others could pick them up when they felt like it so that no one was ever alone during everything, and she wrote on a piece of paper: Today I saw a hummingbird for the first time, and she drew a picture and the red of the flower was the red of the fire and she hoped someone would pick it up and tell her that it was a good sign, and that the rain would finally come.
They left me for dead at the window
on an evening I still remember
for the blind of blurring white—
the moon rising full
over crusts & crags of frozen snow
and the sky clearing to stars so sharp
I might have cut my hand on them.
Ruby told me the Genesee Falls froze
hard as stone that night,
into cathedral pillars of frost…
just like my heart
so I guess I should believe her.
It was then,
yes, I know it was when
they left me for dead at the window…
all that night seeing nothing
in the blank, bitter dark….
all sight was gone—just frost, and so cold
no scarf or muff or heavy quilt would warm me.
That’s when they left me for dead at the window
Read more >
Under Mama Quilla’s lunar spell,
Condor, king of the skies, quelled
his vanity –
realised true power floats
and hums in gentle hoverings, soft
and efficacious. Red-throated
Hummingbird, my daemon,
you teach this lesson well.
Seen as a lady, men tried to stop me travelling
to sketch and honour Mother Nature’s gifts,
but chirp-tutored, I ignored their words
I slipped through dumb restraints like silk
pulled swiftly through a ring.
My hours see me shift and change,
adopting many potent guises:
translucent under moonlight –
sharp and clear, as midday’s bells
chime, in afternoon’s bright sunshine.
Mama Quilla’s lunar spells meld
with Hummingbird’s daytime magic. Thus made
strong, a woman, I have no need of condors or of kings.
Eolian and Gray
I blink of gray
Where green once stood aright
A glimmer of orange
Or was it red?
That eolian sound!
That stiff breeze of gray
I cannot breathe!
My eyes brimmed with tears
Tears of gray
Gray, green, orange, red
Break me loose!
I’m the tree that once stood aright.
I once moved my lovely
Art has wings -
they flap, swirl,
as newborns in woolly hats
donning pink and blue
to mark beginnings
like first, intrepid brushstrokes;
flicking pages of a thesaurus.
Art inhabits many forms:
lines of penned poetry,
and nightingale novels:
all hover in the air
as winged birds,
with neon hues:
and saving souls
as life boats
for struggling swimmers
lost in chilled, callous seas
with weighted, wingless feet.
there is a knitting-lady
who made me a pillowcase, it is there
alongside my cat-furred cushions and night-time crystals that I
leave under my pillow
she is there at night time
burrowing through my skull like a
I never think of her
but I think as her and
she thinks through me and
I think that when
she knit me this case,
and gave it to me,
she really knew me.
As I grow closer to knitting lady's age
and I've long left that little girl's place,
I find that her loneliness whispers in my ear
now whenever a little
girl is near
I feel an outpouring of some
it must be the knitting-lady,
smiling through me from above.
You with your dollhouse feathers
Ruby throat pulsing with delight
And endless energy
Zip to and fro...
Your miniature heart at the edge of
Members of your pack visit
every sixty seconds
Needles poke into yellow plastic flower replicas
Extracting prime C&H quality dope
While cat licks her silver lips...
and considers rushing the lead paned glass.
You rest on hair-like plaits of branches
Wait for your turn to come...
at long last
Needle nose gem finally still at the bar
Serving free drinks for sweet drunk gems
Ever wonder why we never find you
drop dead in the garden?
your tiny body just
spontaneously combusts from pure
Noteworthy Songs of Humming Birds
Ruby-throated, I rainbow
morsels of sky,
untenanted, into clear
blue, pebble and shoe,
a litany of now, now,
now. I peg these humble
collections on a clothes-
line of clouds: every
sight, every music
box metal tooth,
I deposit within earshot,
then hurry out of sight.
Summer at Nana Putnam’s Place
Rural living bored the girl.
Hours ached along like days, ever unchanging.
By and by and at long last, perhaps by her conjuring,
a visitor came to call, armed with a carpet cleaner, asking, “Is the
lady of the house at home?” Suddenly blushing and
red-throated, Millicent stammered on the stoop. “No, she’s away…”
Humming, the man studied her a moment, then handed her a card.
Endicott’s Cleaning Company, brushes of every kind, Samuel Endicott she read.
Bird after bird twittered eloquently, she stood dumbstruck, and he repacked his car.
New York, she read his license plate aloud,
as he slowly turned onto the road with a whirl of dust,
as her loneliness loudly crescendoed in pitiful cries,
as the frightened birds took refuge in the brush
alarmed at the upset of their happy rural living.
WISHING FOR OTHER
When the humming stirs our conscious
selves we wonder what it is and where it went,
eyes peeled for silent moments and not just
in rural splendour. Sometimes it happens
in kitchens deep inside cities where trees and birds
are thinner on the ground… in the air.
Humming is sister to satisfaction and happy
wanderings elsewhere without the trappings of
uniform jobsworth heart-attacks-on-thresholds.
Something escapes us… runs wild in the bluebells
with careless bare feet desperately seeking
a river to paddle, blossom to smell, and peace.
a slice of life in a third-floor walk-up :: prepped. primped. primed.
clothed in tie-dye tee’s of pink, kelly green, and violet hues and frayed denim trousers, we’d sit crossed-legged in front of the black and white television cube with gyroscope antennae and eat bologna with mustard on wonder. we’d each pull two slabs of oscar mayer’s processed calories from sticky plastic wrappers and two doughy, pre-sliced squares from red, yellow, and blue balloon printed bags, then snip corners and squeeze tiny mustard packets until empty.
one. two. three. prepped. primped. primed.
a slice of life in a third-floor walk-up.
between chews, we’d snort in response to days of our lives and happy days, flex toes painted of dollar store polish, cobalt and citrine, and sniff back tears. all while a curious hummingbird watched from the other side of our dusty four-pane window. always watching. all four seasons. cycling. torpor to forager. mostly, we wondered when we might be ready for flight.
one. two. three. prepped. primped. primed.
a slice of life in a third-floor walk-up.
while the hummingbird sought sustenance, we forged our own resistance. eager to escape. too deep in debt to gather the energy necessary for migration. unable to resist the weight of the hour. our bottoms stuck on stained linoleum. our gaze transfixed, first by thirty-second commercials for tide & twinkies. next by the marvels of flight. the hummingbird capable of movement in 360 degrees. up. down. sideways. forward. backward. each of us boxed & limited by laws of gravity & systems. two bites forward. three gulps back.
one. two. three. prepped. primped. primed.
a slice of life in a third-floor walk-up.
i have stopped calling them, my memory fades, its yellowing pages, crinkled, can turn to crumbs, i ask you to not touch my nursery rhymes, my mother got me the the book even though she couldn't read; i read, she beams with joy, i don't know how to tell her knowing the coloniser's language is not a marker of success, i lie, i tell her i have made it in life, perched on a branch above hers, the same tree, the same flower, i breathe, she breathes through me, i hover, she hovers for me, i feel burdened by this transactional existence, she calls it love, i feel incapable of giving back, and i pause, and i look into her eyes and make false promises, the real ones cannot be fulfilled, and she knows in her heart that there's more i don't say than i do, and she tries to read the silences, and she tells me, in us she sees herself and her mother, and i shed a tear but quickly wipe away lest she sees begins to worry again, and she tells me the pages of her nursery rhymes had the same birds as mine, its pages just as crinkled and its cover just as dusty, and i've got nothing to hide when she says life is but a series of semi-colons;
A zip zing
lemon batter, butter
those beaking feet.
No, she won’t take walnuts.
The cracking shells break her.
Wring their belling necks instead,
throw them in like drums.
Their wings crisped flatter, no flutter here
to sweep the icing.
All silent, all stilled
all making way
for the candle-blown day.
The lady desires
her hummingbird cake.
It’s all of no consequence.
A wayward smile
is the only lingering
A hummingbird is spelling out
all the words with her fluttering wings,
while another one quietly looks on,
puzzled, but glad.
the winter light glows,
sibilant, cold, regally remote,
cherishing a mock Latin ending,
classical, a palimpsest;
fleeing mothers weep,
and their frightened children ―
they refuse to speak.
The hummingbird is wrong:
Please! Please don’t say “rural”,
it’s spelled B – R – U – T– A – L ...
My writerly muse
I love the long beak of this bird
so like a writer’s pen,
ready to dip into a nectar inkwell,
to fortify herself with a diet of words.
Sometimes a hummingbird
flits so quickly, it’s
flight so fast,
fluttering her wings
with such rapidity,
she is mistaken for an insect
or, worse, goes unseen,
like the 1851 winter here.
Her work is diminished
as that is a anonymous “lady”
as if anyone could have written
with the same felicity.
Yet, her cover shows one bird
Distinct, clearly encouraging
the group on upper right
to distinguish themselves one
from the other while still
supporting the group
for each to pursue
nectar, pollinate the garden—
support, yet without fear of a
solo, named flight.
Still She Sings
Once upon a time,
she sang behind bars,
a charming trinket,
of the giant in the castle
Until one day,
another opened the door,
let her fly to untold heights
to sing her own song
Bereft and jealous,
- who was really a small man -
chased her down
and crafted a new cage
from bombs and blood and fear
It hovers, just above,
a Damoclean blade,
casting her world
in shades of death
and still she sings
Long to clutch,
Feel the fragile,
The heat and throb,
The flutter beneath.
The eyes that lead to the heart know,
The ears that lead there, they know too.
Beauty needs a gentle touch
The breathless cannot sing.
Too long –
Wonder and doubt blinked
And she flit.
A red throat branded on the retina.
Meditating on the Ephemera
We have a stack or ream,
if you will, of old magazine pages,
advertisements for creatures
of a by-gone era.
Does anyone care about
these decorations of yesterday?
Perhaps the humming of wax
wings can still be heard,
ancient murmur of false memory.
An artist illustrates a moment
that never happened. Lies can lead
to the truth. Or can they?
I worry that storing up such
useless items will lead to a worship
of ephemera, a contemplation
of what has passed on.
The tattered comics of my father’s
youth, vintage photographs of folks
I’ve never seen before, love letters
written on a forgotten occasion.
Perhaps one day I’ll move on, but
risk losing much in this decision
to include the final punctuation mark.
Hummingbird of the Mind
A blur thrown into being,
a shuttlecock tossed to the air
sparked into life with
unseeable wings quicker
than seconds: the smallest fraction.
The woven world of spider silk
is a universe to hatch in,
to float, dodge and dart in.
I crave such falcon climbs,
the dives out-jetting jets
like doodlebugs, trilled wind
through reeds of feathers,
tasting space with javelin beak,
atom by atom: the largest number.
If only I could keep you
in my mind: a fairy-flit of fire-green.
I sense you’re like a neuron,
forever flying free of my dream.
Our tiny green
tiny green memories sing
like sherbet pips. We slip
into throats with our long proboscis–
sweet as salt, sweet as honey
sweet as tears and ice.
Behind the counter
a child counts glass jars, asks for
a quarter of feathers & fear,
a scoop of strangeness
& a rhubarb and custard.
Sherbet fizzes like taunts or playground rhymes.
In the corner, Bizarro, the homely magician
teases us with pulled candy & cinder toffee.
Let us reinvent our eyes as marbles.
Let us reinvent our tongues aquamarine & cover
our pale skin with popping candy, a revolution
reflected in the painted eye of a small
BUT I CAN’T GO BACK THERE
The hours steal upon me unexpectedly,
in the all-encompassing metropolis
that is eating holes in the world—
those hours of childhood rambles on the farm,
through fallow fields,
past peach orchards, chicken coops,
to a dirt road trailing through the woods
to our house, where I’d stand at the front door
atop a flight of brick steps,
squinting out over the treetops
to the farmhouse and barn
shrunk, from only a mile away,
tinier than my thumbnail.
The hours of those days surround me,
permeating my uprooted mind
unexpectedly, when I’m reminded of things
like my grandfather’s flower garden
long years ago, before time existed—
where hummingbirds beat their wings
so much more leisurely in comparison
to the pistons of careening beltway vehicles,
or the arrhythmic, frantic hearts
of tense, distracted pedestrians
stealing along rootless city sidewalks.
Hummingbirds on the Hudson
In 1851, Putman published Rural Hours by a Lady
and the Hudson River Railroad pulled ninety tons
of iron and steam from New York City to Poughkeepsie.
Winged, needle-beaked, the hummingbird fades
in water color stains, reds turned rusty, greens dull.
It flutters on the wafting floral bouquet,
a fragrant seduction of blooms in a garden.
The tiny flyer sucks on honey-suckle goblets
overflowing with the wine of summer nectar.
Light as light itself, heart tripping in fairy tap time
a lady’s thoughts hummingbird their way over an emerald
meadow or slip inside a secret garden
beneath a cottage’s watchful eye, skim along an abandoned plot
dotted with wild abandon by thistles, scrub grass,
a thousand shades of salvia and vagrant bee balm.
The smallest of birds whisks silken on whispered
sighs, ferried by a lover’s breath, a lady’s smile.
Red-throated, it hovers, fragile, the hummingbird
in the path of a rumbling iron beast
belching flames and smoke. Metal tracks shriek and spark
igniting the sky, burning its gossamer wings.
It was the day Crimea moved
from history books, studied at school -
though then reduced, that brigade charge,
as too the lady with the lamp -
now power grab, hope global laze,
those empire embers fanned to flame.
Then tragic loaded tragedy,
as west unites, old emphasis
on drawing line despite the bumps,
a common enemy in sight;
but white the ground, so alien
those far beyond the common threat.
For open arms veil cloak within,
where orthodox means what we know;
though rouble lies in rubble, bombed,
see refugees ranked in their turn -
democracy trades melanin.
Change the menu, Chicken Kiev
no longer fits the bill of fair -
theatre clown proved president.
It can’t be feathered, yellow, white,
as front line, martyrs, laying down
their lives, not arms, invasion faced.
These ladies now, wick bottle lamps,
or Molotovs for cocktail hour,
birds humming as full throated, rough.
Whoever thought these Mums would singe,
but come the hour, they’ll bring to book,
or sacrifice, world upside down.
Raw Songs From Red Throats
See how quickly you can surrender. Back to the earth.
Close your eyes. Open your lips. Let the air in.
Can you feel the edges of the earth under your feet?
Can you feel yourself standing?
The pull of the ground beneath your soles, beneath our souls.
Listen closely. Closer still.
Can you hear the birdsong?
Really hear it?
An hour is an hour, wherever you are.
An hour isn’t the same for everyone.
What if you gave just one minute?
Took just one minute?
Can you smell the greenness of the new shoots? The tang of mud?
The beat of birds wings. The ruffle of feathers. The raw songs from red throats.
I Am One Of Two Who Know
The world talks about your singing,
the rapid squeak of a well-used pram wheel.
They marvel at the speed of your wings
making them near invisible while you hover
up and down the road outside
the coffee shop you choose to land in.
And how about your beak?
A smile not content with going left and right
but reaching out in front of you
to tap strangers on the shoulder during days
they’ve got their heads in the ground.
You are feathers people understand,
a reminder of how things work.
Little do they know
you have the ability to fly upside down.
Here you are
How to paint such lightness, as if conveying air itself?
You are never non-moving. How can I catch the lustre,
feather-gems flowing ochre to turquoise to navy blue?
I could stitch in sequins – no, they are heavy, will flake,
and will fade to grey in the end, and no slivers of gems
– they are too unchanging, and seashells are too rough.
So, how about water? I will paint you in dyes from trees
and berries and mud. You will already be there, reflected,
and I will pin down your outline, the echoes of your spirit
– and look, in a flicker, you are gone. But I have a trace.
Your eyes are planetary, your throat is a rose-frill of pink:
as with stars, we are looking back at something ancient,
long since left, and yet we can see. Is this death, or living?
I just know, in this one brief moment, we were all here.
Kiss the face of the life
It is months since I have written. Strung out weeks, days, hours of living through this wretched travel ban. I am stuck here in the castle, surrounded by the moat. Its earthy hollow is a rim, a brown trench dug around me. The drawbridge is shut. No one goes in. No one goes out. I dream of seeing baby Sophia and you. All alone, I long to see anyone.
Around my neck is my silver necklace with the humming bird pendant. I have taken to wearing it everyday. Do you remember Albert gave it to me years ago? It was on one of our last trips. We were on the French Riviera staying in a villa belonging to an artist friend, perched in the scented hills of Grasse. Everything was orange, blue and green: the buildings, the sea and sky, the trees. One evening, on the terrace, Albert handed me a minuscule tissue paper package. He stroked my cheek and said “Darling when I kiss your face, it is of course the one I love, but I also kiss the face of the life I would like for everyone, both wise, beautiful and generous.”
Inside the delicate package, I found the humming bird dangling from a delicate argent chain. “Dear Albert” I cried out, ”What a perfect gift, the pendant, the fine-spun silver, did you know that these little creatures build their nests from spiders webs.”
Clementine, this necklace is a talisman, for it encourages me to dream of flight: to imagine I go anywhere, go everywhere, meet everyone I once knew and those I’ve never met. Humming-birds are small but mighty. They travel 4,000 miles from Mexico to Alaska every year. Moving from colour to white.
Hmmmm. I believe I hear the humming birds.
Indeed, they sound more like bees than birds.
Yes, Amelia, you’re right.
Their wings beat eighty times a second
to keep them airborne …
they drop no bombs, nor do they shell
but can fend off an oriole, a hawk or a crow.
Small, deceptive, darting, they rest alert and ready.
The mighty and the innocent would do well to learn from them.
How beautifully they flit and hover …
like a persistent lover
who pierces the carpal
with a divided tongue
telling lies and drinking dry the
innermost secrets of the female flower.
Life away from the city theatres and salons
was always going to be different.
No society ladies with their fashionable frocks:
silk and satin, ribbons and feathers,
carefully placed gemstones drawing the eye
to a hint of cleavage, a bare shoulder.
Here, in the country, the smart set
dress with understated opulence,
proclaiming wealth and status
with classic cuts, with quality fabrics.
Occasionally there is a showman,
that one man - it is always a man - of such
supreme wealth that he can get away
with ostentation and flamboyance,
his physique emphasised by emerald waistcoats,
his throat adorned with the flash of ruby cravats.
Around him even the most dour matrons
flutter like moths drawn to a lamp,
like hummingbirds drawn to sugar.
He perches, preening,
flashing his jewel-toned gorget,
coyly chirping and darting,
abuzz with pointless activity.
She, drab and dowdy,
who does all the foraging
of insects and nectar
for their dime-sized chicks,
teeters with exhaustion.
His useless presence is a distraction
likely to attract predators,
but he cannot seem to help
his flamboyant acrobatics.
Behold! the maestro perches
on a sweet pea plant,
fluttering his baton wings
to urge inaudible music
from an invisible orchestra,
then swoops down,
to take a bow, sticks out
his chest in pride.
Such a typical male, drunk
with his own self-importance.
Once, just once,
she wants desperately
to sink her needle beak
into his puffed plumage
and deflate him.
She hums as she washes up the pots and pans,
her throat flushing as steam rises and clutches
at her neck. She remembers something she said
at dinner, how the whole table turned to face her
and her husband’s foot pushed down on her toes.
Earlier, guests had swooned over her napkin origami,
the little hummingbirds she’d folded - wings caught
mid-beat as if in salute, tail feathers splayed, bills curved
round the rims of empty wine glasses as if trying to feed.
They’d said that they looked too good to be used
but as conversation moved on - the bottle uncorked,
ready to pour - she’d watched each hummingbird vanish
like a party trick, undone by a quick swish of the wrist.
To a coy mistress
No letter from a disguised lady I met
In 1853. It has been two years and
I miss her, such a coy lady but so
happy twirling in lady clothes. How
adorable she looked in her white
petticoat. We escaped in rural
hidden retreats in Lancashire.
Who would suspect of two lovelies,
picking up flowers in splendid fields,
her hairy hands covered by elegant
gloves, holding a brush and sketching
me in watercolours. Maybe she
sings like a bird, behind the bars
of some dirty jail. I hope not. I keep
on waiting anxiously for her letter,
with details for a next rendezvous
holding hands in our magical land.
Preparing to begin
They’re returning to the nest
Although there’s no nest yet
Just a box, high up on a wall
Cleaned and ready for them
Just one so far, flitting in and out
No twig in its beak
Doing a recce maybe
Scoping it out
Last year’s nest is long gone
Along with empty shells
Little ones all grown and flown
No sad skeletons left behind
No tiny bodies on the earth beneath
A successful hatch
The world turns
The adult pair prepare to begin again
The cycle continues
The Nectar of Life
Near the Place de la Madeleine,
Darkness falling like a theatre curtain,
to close another bustling business day,
Waiters resplendent in white stain-free aprons,
Standing to attention,
Waiting for their evening trade in apéros to begin,
A man and a women sit, sipping their drinks,
Their arms flapping in accompaniment to their chatter.
A suitcase is squashed discreetly underneath their table,
They laugh and eat the snacks that came with their apéritifs,
Picking over the tasty morsels like epicurean birds.
This is no lover’s farewell.
It is a chance to savour sweet memories,
Before one of them flies away from their fast-paced lives,
To a new nesting ground, a warm place, full of colour and vibrance.
A hug filled with affection from years of shared light-hearted banter.
Outside she takes out her phone and turns,
To take a photo of Le Colibri, the Hummingbird café and her friend,
Bright-eyed, smiling and raising his glass,
A salute to acknowledge life’s sweetest gift -
I carry your song through
Dark winter night into March
Clouds stoke the sky
On the shores of Italy, the
Keeper of the lighthouse sends her fragile heart
Into the storm. Her light magnetizes the sunshine
Caught between your wingbeats.
First bunch of flowers
Adobe lace and faded indigo
Red-throated rhythms ring hollow in the air.
THE RURAL HOURS
Q: What does the clock say?
A: Does it:
a) Chime with chipper melodic intonations
b) Gong loudly, a timber of vibrations you can feel from the inside out?
Or does it:
a) Mark time in some unusual manner? With a hummingbird flitting forward, the machinations of charm and whimsy?
b) Does it interrogate fear? Is it about preservation or exploration?
Perhaps it is:
a) A theme or an idea. An encapsulation of a moment, or
b) A memory.
Or does it:
a) Offer gratitude?
b) Disrupt or reframe how we see traditional narratives?
c) Punctuate new beginnings, mark a moment of transition?
In other words, it is:
a) Reevaluating the definition of space, sharpening the fuzzy outlines of stability.
b) The summary of damage, as the water pours through the walls.
c) Realizing this is not a metaphor.
The Silver Bough
On the borrowed days of March,
the wild clary grows, amethyst abounds
the sky a China blue,
thin clouds draped across it like Vandyke lace,
the last of Winter snows embrace the high ground
and give it a ghost like beauty
as we enter the season of the quickening sun
the valley is lit from above
within its heart a lone birch, a tree of light, the silver bough
to shine bright white into the land of promise
and makes the air move around it
as the rains release its heady scent
the hare dances in the domain of the long grass.
For Emily Dickinson
I never met a Hummingbird
Whose iridescence flashed
Before my eyes - like Nectar’s ghost -
In sugar-questing flight -
But quiver-plumaged flickerings
+Bright ephemeral forms - +Flickering fragile
Electricities - of Wrens -
Cobalt hearts - of flames.
You and I - though “introverts” -
As long as we draw breath
Live for mundane Miracles
Familiar - to both -
I Have Never Seen
I have never seen a humming bird
in real life, only in images or on TV,
close up and in vivid colour.
Even then, their wings a whirr,
those tiny birds were a blur,
filmed over hours,
to show how
in and out of exotic flowers.
I live in the wrong place with the wrong flora.
But regret does not last for ever.
Outside my window, honeysuckle greens
bright leaves on curly twines,
and robins, tits and finches
dart among sap-livened vines,
certain of life’s cycle
and sweetly scented blooms.
A hummingbird flew in at my window
And asked with its eyes what I wanted. I knew very well, from local country folklore, that when a hummingbird enters your house this way it should bring you a message of love. I’m not answering you, I said. You’re not a genie, you’re not here to grant wishes. What I want is not your business. Behave like the messenger you’re meant to be – tell me my love message and move on.
The trouble with hummingbirds is that they are ill-equipped to fulfil their reputed purpose. Once in a room, they will dart repeatedly at the ceiling, having forgotten where they came in, until they have exhausted themselves and have no breath left to live, let alone relay messages of love. If only they could pause in their fluttering, rest easy for a while, loiter in a calm and curious manner, they would spy daylight blazing through an open pane, or feel the tell-tale vibrancy of free air in their vanes.
I hurried to the basement and rummaged in the old, outdoor play-box. Battered tennis bats, bent frisbees, a ruby-decked skateboard. And a fishing net with a rusted hoop. That’ll do, I said, with the same skip of joy I felt at its first outing, when Mags scooped a shanny and flew across the sand to show me. By the time I returned to my kitchen, dreamy with memory, the bird was gone. Leaving a psychedelic hum of satisfaction in the drowsy afternoon breeze. I picked my phone up off a blurring list of woeful to-dos, which slithered to the floor as I breathed deep. When Mags finally answered with a question in her voice, I kept my tone light and casual. I don’t like to be too obvious. I think she understood.
This Is The Picture (after Peter Gabriel)
We took some rest in rural hours and left food for the birds
all through winter, awaiting some kind of return –
revolution and resolve fitting together –
until a chuckle of spring
brought sleepy beaks back to remembering all the words
they had covered with hums since dark
took light into equal measure
and these excellent birds once more show off their throaty tricks –
to a Lady sitting within a window, the feathers she thought
to be coal-black are – by just a turn of light – red!
In realisation we are lost for words, now
awake to a remembered future that comes twitching through branch-light;
buds and blossom bring the picture back
into focus, to be framed in green –
to bask under motion picture,
the light of dreams,
crawling for another beam of sun
on a winter afternoon,
on an oak floor.
the images move before her:
twenty-four frames a second
cut to black—still, twenty-four.
though the screen is still, the projector
how a hummingbird
yet beats its wings
suppose it brings the lady back
to her life before she graced the silver screen:
now, it's seven in the morning
& it smells of
dew, honey, nectar,
while something—an insect?—hums
in the blunt air.
no, it's not an insect,
but a hummingbird,
slicing through the breeze,
cutting into focus.
Balls of Fluff
Little balls of fluff float like wisps,
The beating of the wings suspends in time.
Locating the mead to quench their thirst,
Hovering into a fay's house; Penetrating-
The rapier, with precision, all enticed.
In just an atom of a moment,
Two find one another,
What is made, what is formed
It is thus, a continuity of life.
red-throated, missing everything
humming humming little songs at the fair, mask on face breath heavy,
it's my secret in these crowded joints,
tall ceilings and sparkling ceramic miles, i can speak to myself under the cotton unbeknownst to passerby's.
missing everything i've known,
from pillow forts and iced tea breweries
like water. i feel so seen in your presence, our mothersongs in harmony. two hummingbirds tracing back love's meaning reunited,
distance as a cruel king,
and his is a soft brainwash of the eternities spent tied together in dreams, a flower red
and a circling dance, "sweet tea in the summer / and tho I can't recall your face / I still got love for you..."
i push the urgency to be together
pray it keeps, so i don't break
so i have strength for my wilderness
and the lurking spies.
but in toasts i feel my eyes swell,
in catch-ups i feel the time not enough,
thank you for the music, for the 3min song. but i'd like the month,
the season, the year.
Sipping the Mississippi
should be brighter
than reality, faster than life.
A tiny dynamo, Duracell-fuelled
moving more rapidly than we could ever see.
Neon-flecked, eye-hurting colours backdropped
by the wide, amazed sky of a Købke painting.
Only the bird remains un-stunned by the everlastingness
of the expanse, needle focused as it is on sweetness and light, Pantone matched to its surroundings.
Stitching nectar into its ruby throat.
Flittering over woodlands, soft meadows and tropical rainforests, always seeking, always hungry.
Until it reaches the great, mud-clogged artery of America, takes a sip and is trapped, as if a spell has been cast. Condemned to torpor from dusk till dawn.
Tainted nectar here.
Thrum slows to a funeral march,
vibrancy distilled into a faded and quaint illustration
a simulacrum, life sapped, preserved as if embalmed – trapped
between sheets of glass
or the pages of a
fat and dusty
Sketching the Rural Hours
Fields and woods,
the courtship of the hummingbirds.
record the flight, the swoop, the dash
the dive, the height.
Paint the portraits. Tiny bright bodies.
Feathered jewels sky by,
in one another.
See the bits, the twigs and webs
that make the nest.
Two days. Two tiny eggs.
The pencil wobbles in my hand. I'm sweating, shivering, almost feverish – without reason. I try to breathe, calm myself. Picture the pencil gliding, swooping and sprialing across the paper to form the shapes I'm trying to replicate. The graphite meets paper; the pencil stutters in my hand, careening in bumps and uneven scrawls.
I sigh, force myself to continue. It's only failure if I give up. It's not working, though – jagged lines appear on the page, and I'm almost surprised, as if I had somehow expected to produce something actually good. I almost walk away, but don't. Force myself to stay, to map outlines. My hands don't stop shaking – they never do.
I manage it, though, forcing my mind to wonder – "RURAL HOURS" reminds me of the dawn chorus outside my bedroom when I was little – the birds nesting in the rosebush. Those weren't hummingbirds, though. Probably sparrows. The chicks with their fluffy, puffy bodies. I always wanted to reach out, brush my fingers along their backs, their wings, but I didn't. I remembered the advice of my grandmother, that their parents wouldn't come back, that they would die. I suppose it's nice to think that I had restraint, even as a child.
The birds have taken shape now, along with the plant, materialised on the paper while I was elsewhere. It's better than I would have thought. Still not good. Now, at least, for the fun part. I take out my watercolours, marvelling in the vibrance of each colour, proud in my ability to bring my crooked drawing to life. It no longer matters that my hands aren't steady – I've always found that, for some reason, the brush is far more forgiving.
He has carved a smaller hummingbird for his sister, and she has brought it to life in the cold sky between them, tossing it into the air. They are alone together, and they are starving, their hungry arms trying to hold the sky to their mouths. He has carved a smaller hummingbird for his sister, and she has brought it to life in the gnawing empty space between them, sending it to beg for rain to make crops grow. They are alone together, and they are starving, but he has carved a smaller hummingbird for his sister, and she has brought it to life between them, wings beating the dry sky for rain. They are alone together, starving, but this is how the world begins in hunger and in hope.
He had these prints up everywhere in the house, bird prints like John James Audubon’s. Even his kitchen wallpaper was avian-themed, with bluebirds, cardinals, and chickadees perched together in a fixed pattern. Included in the motif were other woodland creatures like squirrels, rabbits, and even, coiled up in one corner but not repeated anywhere else, a black rat snake.
My friend Lily was housesitting for the old man, Charlie, who was in the hospital suffering from some undisclosed illness. One of Lily’s professors, Dr. Ohlman, had asked Lily to do this favor for his ailing father in exchange for a place to live over the spring and summer, while she figured out what she was going to do after graduation.
Lily wanted me to see Charlie’s house one evening after class. Aside from the wallpaper, the house wasn’t terribly peculiar, just an old ranch style home from the 1960s. When we finished the tour, Lily led me out to the back patio. It was a concrete lagoon surrounded by blooming azaleas. Beyond the hedge of azaleas was dense forest which sloped away from the house down to the river. I’d been to the river as a boy with my brother to skip rocks in the black slow-moving water. There were stories about swimmers and hapless boaters drowning in that deep black water, so we’d kept our treks there a secret.
On the patio sat wrought iron furniture sporting antique curlicue patterns and animal paw feet. The white paint coating them was peeling, revealing blood red rust that looked almost black underneath. Charlie had erected several bird houses and feeders at various points in the yard. Lily pointed down to an iron vessel I’d assumed was a firepit. “That’s where the food
Some Chidiya (birds) are wise
Some Chidiya (birds) are wise
(Ten monokus in Hindi and English)
Hum-hum, chirpy-chirpy. Flying sounds more euphonious. Small chidiya.
Some fly far, some near. Thirst fast, thirst slow. Aglow. Don't forget, some chidiya.
Some old fly on one side. Chose not to speak. Male or female, some chidya.
Picking here, picking there. dropping emotions everywhere. Some chidya.
Androgynous, asexual, LGBTQ, your bodies are temples. Yours. Some chidya.
Where doth feet rest? Branches, creeks, wrought cages? Inside? Out? Free, some chidya.
Pencil in mouth writes story. No paper. Just memory. Some chidya.
Red, throated, rural, urban mothering. Fathers boast, roam. Some chidya.
Sky is teal. Water, blue berry. Feeders in your backyard. Some chidya.
Mountain top I see, I climb. No labeling this woman. Some chidya.
What the Hummingbird Sees
They call her Hummingbird, tiny and splendidly arrayed,
flitting from task to task, as they to flowers,
a perfect lady, they say,
not seeing the determination behind the feathery insouciance,
the strength it takes to fly against gravity
seeking petals of radiance and ambrosial air.
She parses sweetness with her forked tongue,
choosing the sublime. When she must, she rests,
and in her torpor visualizes the colors beyond their spectrum,
her vision, waiting for tomorrow when the sunflowers will rise.
emerging from the night
heart racing like the beat
of wings trapped in this
shell of fears I hover
flowers open to the light
how I fly into the dawn
seeking dew and sweet
sun like mother’s kisses
caressing hair and there
a feather’s gentleness
fills the air with song
spring beckons me
nectar on my tongue
I greet today knowing
night must come
but in that dark cage
I will remember now
how freedom tastes
how high the sky
RURAL HOURS Page 10 Bird of the Day
My garden is not just jabbering macaws
and garish hummingbirds, a green-headed
poppy finch is weaving its soft pale nest
with interlacings of tiger silk and delicate frayings.
Her call shuffles & shifts like the sad tones of a bass flute
played with the gentlest of breath. It stills our chatter.
This bird, usually only found among verdant streams
and welcoming catalpa leaves, now perches here
as alone as a nighthawk. Tales are told that poppy
finches guard a magic stone in their nests making them
invisible to any predator, I gaze and find myself
lulled into an almost narcotic reverie - ghost
beetles, snails of paradise & the most vivid
types of lightning fly. Please, don’t disturb me.
There are some windows,
like the one Manani* stood by,
with her sweet morning voice calling birds from all the surrounding trees,
to feed them her open heart's musings and a little bit of the loneliness she felt, perched up here on the topmost floor.
She was a bird herself,
frugal and simple to a fault,
opening windows to the eastern sky when the sunrise came to her inner eye like the first stroke of the universe,
so essential to her at that age.
Living in two spare rooms,
with a prominent prayer house and a central kitchen,
her own birdhouse of sorts.
Just enough for her,
guarded most securely by a balcony and the world wide open,
free and independent like her.
Her window to the world,
her soul left open to be free,
like the leaves
and a cluster of beloved sparrows close to her feet
as they kept all her last wishes
and secret correspondences
in their tiny bosoms.
This too shall pass
as the future wanes.
My travels from worlds
near and far and back again
revealed a life of
chaos and strife.
Time is my greatest teacher.
will have to wait
is where I’ll stay.
Endicott’s magic city
will remain my safe haven,
times of the 1850’s,
sitting in the sun porch,
sipping sun made lemonade.
The new era is too trifling –
confined to dwellings
when the heavens roar.
This consumed hemisphere
will not thwart my efforts
of a serene life, this I assure.
I traveled back to placid lands
like aged wine will
remain for ages,
ON THE WING: A GHAZAL
A dappled dawn they sing and squawk together
It’s a blaze of colours when they flock together
The gloom has lifted, we survived the night
A sublime sunrise they unlock together
Forget those models strutting on the ramp,
In midair they sashay down the catwalk together
Yesterdays are dead and tomorrows unborn
On the face of time we tick-tock together
Her body melts in his masculine arms
In love, they are dove and hawk together
Rural Hours By a Lady: An Elegy for My Mother
Although wealthy debutantes get all the attention, real ladies keep the rural hours that keep the South alive.
Each nameless face lined with stress
Dying far too young
Keeping rural hours is difficult. For the lady, this means rising before the sun to get to the factory, where she’ll spend years toiling in eight to fourteen hour shifts before it shuts down, leaving her with broken hands and hungry children.
Hands calloused from work
Show no love, no affection
Too reserved, too tired
Then she’ll cook and join the men in the tobacco fields, only to outwork them all.
Up before sunlight
Her life traded but for what?
Just more suffering
There she’ll labor on the setter in spring, delicately planting the young seedlings that will eventually kill her, handling them with tenderness and care. Once setting is complete, she’ll spend evenings and weekends weeding, hoe in hand, bending repetitively, her back aching.
You fly backwards in time.
You gulp the nectar
down your red throat kissing
the yellow petalled flower.
Your mouthless hum is
a song of freedom wings.
Your tiny belly
hungered, with a heart
that beats tireless
until it numbs
in the torpor
of your sleep.
What do you dream of then?
The feeder that I hang
or the predator
that quietly sprang.
yet you survive
to brighten another
one of my lonely
this barter of sugar
Susan Fenimore Cooper
If you try to search for her
you’ll first find reference to her father,
for she was the daughter of a writer.
Caught in a wilderness where
she knew her place
she walked her land humbly
grateful of its grace.
With detailed observation
she upheld moral obligation
traversing with piety
for a sustainable society.
In Rural Hours of natural history
published with a pen of mystery
a hummingbird sang By a Lady.
If you search a little farther
you’ll find reference to her father
for he was the father of a writer.
The father of a daughter
with a name.
There are no hummingbirds where I live
They don’t migrate this far.
If they would, we’d open our gardens,
our windows, plant daffodils on every sill.
Our pigeons, crows, and magpies
would form a powerline chorus,
watch the hummingbirds concerting
their merry whirr from flower to flower
with rapid wings all summer long.
They’d sip nectar from honeysuckle,
the rosemary bush on the sidewalk.
They’d flirt and flutter with weebills,
thornbills and fairy wren, be the talk
of our town ‘till it’s time to fly home—
backwards, taking our summer with them.
It’s hard to tell the shape of a hummingbird’s wings.
Its compact body and needle bill observable as it hovers beside
zinnias, bee balm, salvia, and cardinal flowers.
On rare occasions, I’ve seen its wings tucked against its body
as it rests on bare winter branches.
More often, it is a flit of colour drawing my eyes
away from Puget Sound and the distant mountains.
A quick visit or a long one at the
bright red hummingbird feeder, just outside
the long glass windows of my great-aunt’s house.
As a child on the prairies, we didn’t have hummingbirds.
They were a special occasion bird.
I live further north now, in the boreal forest.
Here, they come.
Not even one or two spend the winter.
Spring may be a few days away, but there’s fresh snow
on the ground. In a few months, the days will be long,
the wind warm, and the hummingbirds will return.
I hope to catch a pic, which might just be good enough
to guess the shape of the hummingbird’s wings.
Darting, flitting acrobats,
Many times a minute tiny wings whirr
fluorescent vibrant colours.
Long curved beaks tongue the nectar,
dipping into the crevices of tall flowers.
High in the Andes finding plants in
red, orange and bright pink.
Enticed by humming that takes energy
they take a welcome drink,
keeping the head stable
while the body moves.
Notes of a Bird Lover
A band of woman wander in the wild,
covered in leaves and flowers,
making bird calls to attract
the red-throated hummingbird.
We wore nature’s most attractive garb,
dressed to the nines, covered in glucose
we were on the rise, up on our toes, singing
through the bars of our human cages.
Tangled in the jungles of New York
we made our way through thick and thin,
becoming wafers of obfuscation, pretending
to be the very birds we hoped to attract.
We rubbed our throats till they bruised scarlet.
We mimicked their movements, falling
to our knees to kiss the inner folds
of the springtime marigold.
In the rural hours, from afar, we heard his
wondrous song, sweet as sun-warmed nectar
careening down along the northeast ledges, echoing
in our ears as we watched them navigate with awe.
My heart beats like the beat of their wings
The hummingbirds are here tonight
They are hovering, I’m waiting,
They deliver, iridescent might
Sure as a dart, their targets they kiss
Bid farewell as they race through the air
Have no doubt, that they will not miss
As anxiety, my senses impair
From brilliant colours, to the purest white
For love of country, the want of a dove
With both eyes open, I prepare to fight
Like Mimi cry out to the sky above.
Preservation, salvation, hand in glove.
She was watching a murmuration the other day,
following shapes that bent then scattered
on the wind.
Noting down the numbers for her maths.
Later, the rain poured down
on pigeons, demanding her
as if there was nowhere else to go,
nothing else to do.
The dog would tell them off,
She's busy! She's busy!
Getting the tea,
silverfish scatter on the counter,
spiders hide in webs like
Later on it's all about,
from the mouth of the man who knows,
the garden and the grubs.
Maybe some day,
the hoover will work,
the world will renew,
and she can have peace and quiet,
to write about the world,
on a blank screen
that glows like the sun.
on a day without fuss,
mess and nonsense.
Gathering of stuttering heart’s to soothe, our weary hurts
Blessed are we, the few
gifted our escape tunnel of creativity
to regather our hope
in these Times, of chaotic absurdity.
March 2022 and my month begins
like so many, this past few years
I am looking at an image
a prompt, a challenge, a whisper
it’s an email by Visual Verse
timely and prompt
asking my creativity, here
show me, the You
that you can weave, out of this!
Often accompanied by witty and wise
editor’s words, shading a little more light
guiding our imaginations
to swim in the same river’s trajectory
to pool as one collective edition
of artistic self-expression
borderless, bold and triumphantly diverse.
WAR AND BEAUTY
Let us say the colorful hummingbird symbolizes peace.
Let us say the two legged giant with weak arms is the gray of cruelty--
The hummingbird swift and agile, a glitter of texture;
the giant clumsy and slow, the creator of tools of destruction.
Let us say they meet in the field of wild flowers blossoming.
After the fires fade, only a thick fog of death remains.
Let us say the hummingbird tries to symbolizes peace.
Let us say the giant with weak arms tries to be the master of extinction.
The field will regain itself, flowers will bloom, hummingbirds will sing.
their soft whisper of a song: I do this work for you,
two legged giant with weak arms, so you will have many fields
colored with beauty and sweet perfumes to scent the air.
A Common Courtship
You hover over me, and you
wonder what I must be like, nervous
energy abuzz, almost palpable.
I see you and sway with hope. A hum
of excitement winds its way up to my
ears. How will this song and dance begin?
I can tell you right now,
there’s no sweet nectar here for you,
no flower for you to suck dry.
I’ve fed the spirits of too many men,
nurtured too many blossoms,
admired too many blooms.
Lingering, you consider how to tame me,
but when you zigged, I zagged,
and off you flew.
In half an instant, you’ve decided
something. (You sure do move quick.)
You’ll fill your belly elsewhere.
So, I’ll tend to my own roots, and I’ll
spread my own seed. I can’t be contained.
Of my magic, you’re undeserving.
Bring me home
Dreams divide the past
With the morning star, O hummingbird
Bring me the scent of dried flowers
From my verandah that smelt of wet grass.
Unfurl the words lost in love
With your song and faint flutter
Or else, erase them from this earth
Where stood my home once.
Come by my window, O hummingbird
Bathed in trickles down Buddha's bust
In moments of glory and grief,
Stilling the time while I still breathe.
The Little Ones Rise
The world is a gift;
the hummingbird its magical messenger in motion;
its wings wave white sage in ceremony.
It moves like curling smoke wafting from a smudge stick;
Its presence purifies the medicine wheel
spinning, cleansing, around all life.
It raises the vibration like a small drum beating,
like its heart beating,
like its wings beating,
like our hearts stirring,
opening as spirit rises beyond the clouds.
These little ones rise, feathers opening our hearts to live again,
to love again,
to allow joy to flow into the dark chambers.
To blossom us up, down, and sideways;
always we open to the sun
dispersing the medicine sweeter than nectar,
like bliss inspirited flowers that renews the magic of life.
Red Throated Humming Bird
I discern in you, a vibrant array of color
Fascinating enough, thee never grow duller
You the splendor of diversity
You the honor of richness of variety
Let's love one another and fly together
in the golden and dazzling summer
Just like you, in turbulent conditions
Teach me how to be agile
Without being fragile
At last, a red throated humming bird is
what I adore the most
So let's love one another and fly together
in the golden and dazzling summer!
Nature; a long forgotten reprieve
She craned her neck to look at the beauty of the red-throated hummingbird. Its song soft, but its colors radiant. She felt like an imposter in just hues of green and brown; plain, squalid, unimpressive.
The hummingbird had traveled from far and narrated stories of lost treasures, exquisite palaces and yearning lovers. She spoke of guided cages and balconies too tempting to escape.
She sang of artists who drew her in shades of scarlet and magenta, who second-guessed their eyes with every brushstroke.
She paused her song to peck at the slightly rotten fruit and quickly snatched her beak back. The hummingbird shrugged her feathers in disdain and then, majestically flew away.
Leaving little brown bird, me, alone, with just visions of a life she'll never experience and a freedom she'll always be too nervous to pursue.
I have never
I have never seen a humming bird,
a condor or a toucan.
I have never seen a buffalo,
a jackal or a whale.
I have never been to Florida,
the Seychelles or Galapagos
where wild palm trees grow.
I have never seen Machu Picchu,
the Taj Mahal, an elephant,
danced my way down Broadway,
or New Delhi
or in the belly
of a floating palace tub.
I have never left my litter
in the Himalayan snow.
But I have a hedge full of blackbirds,
meadows where wild orchids blow,
I have rescued and loved,
and walked on quiet feet,
tried not to break stalk
or silence, swelling slow,
and I hope to leave behind
only bright memories when I go.
My Hummingbird Friend
My final visit to my grandparents’ house
Some forty years ago
A house on stilts on the eastern bank
Of the mighty Demerara
Flowing, silt brown to deep Atlantic
The house where my mother was born
The house where I was born
And every morning on the balcony I sat
And every morning she came to visit
Mercurial, swooping, fluttering
Iridescent, lustrous, shimmering in the sun
Shamrock, jade, emerald, every shade of green
She went from lilac, to orchid, to bellflower
To passionflower, each day a different order
Overwhelmed by nature’s benevolence
Then another dwelling she’d go to grace
But now I near my twilight years
I think oft of my friend aglow
And I recall the house on stilts
And my grandparents, long gone
A colourful bird.
A colourful big bird.
Everyone loves her
Everyone wants to be her
Everyone wants to be her friend
But nobody wants to be mine.
Nobody loves me.
We all want to look like her
We all want to be her.
We all love her.
But she doesn't know that.
She doesn't understand how much we
Do for her.
A smaller bird.
A grey smaller bird.
Gosh! They're so dull.
They should get a personality.
Stop trying to be her
Stop trying so much
They should stop trying as it is
Nobody would care.
Nobody cares now.
They try so hard and for what.
I just wanted to punch them in the face.
But if I did. I'd break the mirror.
The room where my granny spent most of her time was now so quiet that if you stood still you could hear the silence. If you moved, a percussion of small creaks ruffled it. No furniture was left. No rugs nor mats. The wooden floor had become a mosaic of over-trodden, worn, hollowed routes, rich in patina, and the now exposed boards, hidden for years beneath dark chests, ottomans and dressers. Then,
the nude walls. Where once hung myriad framed prints, engravings, watercolours, photographs of great-aunts, clocks and calendars, were bare rectangles of unfaded wallpaper, now displaying their original stripes of polite greys, pinks and sage.
As my eyes travel slowly over the gallery of shapes, I stop at one square that enriched this little girl’s imagination. This world of colours and patterns and letters and birds and leaves and wonder became mine. It asked so many questions and gave so few answers. And as I grew to eye-level, I read the words ‘Rural Hours by a Lady’ and wished and wished I could be that lady.
THE PICTURE IS LOVELY
The picture is lovely, the song too, as homage to the hummingbird. Birds are beautiful in life – the colors as they reclaim their homes after winter. Not just hummingbirds, but black birds, robins and sparrows.
The picture is lovely, but it does not resonate as life does in bright sunlight. The reflections on the water of Canadian geese paddling in large large families, their colors real and not imagined.
The picture is lovely, but it does not say, "Take me home to a special place." That special place outside in fresh air, gardens and parks, the true habitat of flying eagles and cranes.
The picture is lovely. Yes! And its purpose comes to light. Its essence has served to create the desire for more beyond the still life. The picture has drawn the viewer to long for more, wish for more, and to envision more of creation.
The Green Room
It's a kind of winter madness, so I think
of it this way. It's my own green room
with its old brick wall that cracked
during one of those drought years,
where the grass is noisy and thick with
thin-legged, spotted and winged insects,
and where the ferns unfurl fiddleheads
into swords and stab at the west wind,
and the old red roses climb up and over
the greenhouse, where rainy afternoon tea
in china cups is unexpectedly decadent,
and from the greenhouse I can watch
hummingbirds in throats of foxgloves.
And I told this to a friend who asked if I
miss the garden during winter, and I think
of it this way even when it's not this way.
And I've not seen a hummingbird for years,
I said, as two robins splashed in a puddle.
Decades on from our high-speed courtship
I am still humming that tune.
A whirlwind aerodynamic youth
When the heat of the sun filled our hearts
And we were high on hibiscus,
Branching organic compound.
And when we parted and I returned home,
Heart-broken - to the other side of the globe;
I could not get you out of my head.
But now, too long, the landscape has changed,
Bordering on a metabolic dust
As I travel back towards you,
Fleeing, flapping, frozen in memory
I cannot forget our tune still humming in my heart.
Happiness Is Owning a Bookshop
Andrew Putnam’s first regular customer was a silver-haired former sociologist and hobby ornithologist named Mrs. Goldman. She bought a slightly weathered copy of A History of British Birds and wrote her number down on a ripped piece of notebook paper. “If you get more books in of this nature, any condition at any price, please do give me a call,” she said, as she smiled at him with a slight nod. Andrew smiled back. The first genuine smile he could remember giving for a long time.
Previously, his soul was shriveling up a little every day like a grape transforming into a raisin. A wrinkly, dry raisin stuck in your teeth or one that’s fallen out of a slice of cinnamon raisin bread burning over and over again in the bottom of the toaster oven.
He considered it a curse that he was good with numbers and could read the papers and predict which companies would do well that week and which ones people would want to pull their money out of. With those skills the natural choice was the City, which was anything but a natural habitat for Andrew.
The myth of the Andrew Putnam quitting morphed into several different tales circulating the floor at any given time depending on who you talked to—he went crazy, he had a breakdown, he told the boss where to go, he cried.
The most popular explanation was that he went crazy. Especially when his former colleagues found out that Andrew opened a small used bookshop in a dingy alley in a random part of town. “Why would you leave a good job to sell old books about birds?” they whispered over their desks.Read more >
Enter the Hummingbirds
Flowers are blooming exuberantly,
Leaves are lustrously green,
Nature's hue accentuates the landscape,
Butterflies flutter their colourful wings,
Birds fly around,
Basking in the radiance of the sun,
I love the multi-coloured
Nature's little-sized creatures,
They're fascinating to view,
They add colours to my gloom,
They're eyes to the painter's canvas,
Though with a short life span,
They're one of the wonders of creation.
Monologue (inspired by Emily Dickinson)
Can you hear them?
I am at your open window.
Blue throated, silvered.
Glittering cobweb draped around feathered shoulders.
Bright eyed and burning with desire.
I search for nectar.
Dawn still sleeps.
The fairies have danced their way to silken hammocks. T
rails of mist hover above the damp, green lawn.
I have escaped.
Fled from my sisters and broken rank.
Flown at the speed of a million heartbeats to find you.
Drink from your tubular frame.
In Aztec onomatopoeia, hear my call.
A frequency so divine, only the ears of a higher consciousness could possibly decipher this harmony.
A potent psalm.
Lulling listener into sticky bliss.
I am listened by a red moon named song
That sings about rising fires in witchy quivers
We are visited by a red robin named Orlando
That sings in chirps I haven’t sensed in a while
[in orange sunsets / in the straddle to spring]
My housemate says it metamorphoses
I think and feel of the changing
treading fresh green earth
under soft clear sun
I listen to the swollen streams
their waters impatient to be free
running towards the sea
the wind plays amidst full branches
trumpets nestle on the vine
sap is running
a flash of brilliance
dances in the air
iridescence is the word
Like a bee
I zoom around
Trying to create
a dab of honey
Like a butterfly
I flit between activities
Sipping the nectar
Like a hummingbird
I hover mid-air
Caught between consuming
Like a bee
Like a butterfly
Like a hummingbird
I spend my hours
So occupied in tasks and chores
I barely know
How to rest
Bucolic Dust Jackets
Whippoorwills, robins, hummingbirds
and herons grace covers of sheet music,
poetry, and verse, redirecting attention
from human crafted idols where we
dwell in remarkable happenstance free
to evolve, emote, refashion pastoral
self-effacement amid olive branches
and centipede divisions, feet marching
in step to songs lacking melodies.
Euphemisms cloak our visage
obscuring intent, calling warfare
police action, riot squads peace keepers,
topless bar dancers confidence builders,
chirping birds at dawn target practice.
A Silent Revolution
Have you ever heard of a hummingbird?
an incessant fluttering of those wings
working tirelessly for their sustenance
a drop of nectar and more—
something to quench the thirst of a red-throated
that can flicker wings to an unimaginable speed of 80 flickers per second
sometimes, silence screams the loudest—
as the spring arrives breaking hard pointy
sharp ends of that stubborn ice
jutting, melting everything in this way
breaking open the ice slabs so the river can dance again with complete abandon
sometimes nature teaches us resilience and strength in her own ways
sometimes the silence of a hummingbird
as it sucks the next drop of sustenance through her long-bill
without so much of making a whisper and hush
teaches us that not all the revolutions are loud and boisterous
not all battles are won on the frontlines
not every struggle is a struggle of life and death
sometimes we die slowly getting caught
in our own juxtaposition of emotions
trying to fly high in a world mapped and charted by hands
that don't belong to us
Goodwill Ambassadors of the Americas
Be at one with nature, just don't wear a red shirt when hiking in the tropical Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. The hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, curious and will fly by to check you out.
The lush, dense green rainforest is home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals. Many cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Be still. Watch for the flashy hummingbirds fast moving wings — red, green, purple, or orange, shimmering in the sunlight, changing colors, as tiny birds dart about before your eyes.
With more than 30 species of hummers, competition for nectar supplies at lower elevations is fierce.
Loud buzzing announces ruby-throated hummingbirds and violet-crowned woodnymphs, beelining for the bright red and pink flowers of orchids growing wild on nearby trees.
Be still, and watch these goodwill ambassadors of the Americas fly up, down, to the side, and upside down, and roll over and drink on the wing.
— And what a grandly choreographed ballet performance it is by these tiny dazzling jewels of the rainforest!
The watcher watched
I was sitting on the porch
in the shade
looking into the woods
Squirrels were calling
crying to each other
stood in a clearing
watching me as I sat
the watcher watched
Then right there
in front of me
was hanging in the air
I watched as it hung
close enough to touch
Painted, perfumed, primped
ruby throat angled, alight,
striated wings splayed and tilted so,
talons taut, heads cocked
not to trill notes,
sip sweet nectar,
or entice a mate,
only to pose
poised on the stem
of a gilded branch
slave to the artist’s stroke
Hummingbirds are meant to flit
A light breeze in the air as colorful blue jays chirp in unison,
their bright feathered wings flapping in the tree leaves.
The sun beams down, creating beauty in the verdant garden of red roses and yellow daisies.
They fly away above the puffy white clouds soaring the blue skies,
until they reach the next destination, creating happiness wherever they land.
My grandmother was named Betty—just Betty—not Bethany, not Elisabeth
The wife of a methodist minister, she was a public school teacher
Instructing pupils with exceptional needs in a time when nothing much was expected of imbeciles
She had high standards for reading, for writing and showing proper manners
Her classroom library, hundreds of volumes, was passed on to me when she retired
The classics, trade paperbacks and a collection of Golden Book encyclopedias
One for each letter of the alphabet, their colorful spines numbered one to twenty-six
BETTY BEACH perfectly printed on the first faded yellow page of every one
The musty smell of volumes that for decades had been boxed up each summer
Unpacked each autumn anew, to be referenced by dozens of eager students
And now they belonged to me, filled with hand drawn and neatly colored images
The Jurassic Period, a pair of oxen pulling a plow, hummingbirds dining on nectar
I grew up, moved away and the library sat boxed up in my parents' basement
I followed in Betty’s footsteps and became a teacher, amassing a library of my own
I gave my collection away when I left the profession, it’s not a job for the faint of heart
The bird was sitting on the tree branch, their neck expanded up for food.
I watched in awe as jealousy grew in me.
I wish that was me
Their wings were so elegant and beautiful
Like a rare jewel they were a sight for sore eyes
Her sophisticated appearance would light a fire in your heart, after her mesmerizing eyes would align with yours.
I wish that was me.
I was the odd one out, my wings were tattered
my heart was beaten
my face was shredded with envy
My soul distraught and my brain filled with absurd conclusions
Oh how I wish to look as graceful as her.
In the Rural Hours of 1851,
when New York was wrapped
in the hues of autumn,
like the spirit of a Lady,
ready to take a flight,
in the corner of a yellowish dried page
with a little more care,
you could witness an enchanting sight:
A pair of Birds,
fluttering, chirruping and singing
clinging to a notion of Spring.
Perched on the blooming bud,
the Red Throated Humming Bird
sang songs of happier times.
With the melodious chants,
the pair wanted to wake the plants,
and the sleepy pores, trying to bring back
the glory of spring, that now is lost.
Trapped in the middle of a pale page
the spirit of the birds have broken the cage,
with a curious heart
whenever someone stumbles upon their story
they sing of an eternal hope in full glory.
a gentleness …
a gentleness genderly shared / laughter through the eyes of humming birds / we didn’t stop / picking and laughing on top of each other / ignoring the uproar / unity in pale colours / shades of green, hints of pink / we chewed the earthy bits / fruity, yummy / passing the turmoil / we stuffed ourselves until folding …
Spring is like a shell game; now you see it, now you don't. Rural hours demand my attention to the scant sun that will make an appearance one day, and hide behind clouds of steel wool on hours. We spend our days talking about the greenery, the first color (yellow) that the new season presents to us, and of course, the birds, with their 5000 foot view of everything we cannot possibly know , though we try to , nevertheless. In a time of war, a bird working to nest, up close , seems a miracle. With perspective, a fractured pastoral. Their resilience and persistence contains a lesson I have often been too stubborn to learn: let the sun and what the trees might contain call to you. Or succumb to the endless calculations you will make with your feet on the ground, losing the ability to even look up.
They don’t want for much.
The general sustenance to gather
for infants in nearby nests.
Both on a journey from a far,
to ensure the survival of others.
The two quests are vital,
yet there’s no rivalry here.
Graciously sharing the spoils
gifted in the heart of nature.
The branch salutes its companions
embarking upon long journeys
across the falling sky.
The harvest remains unspoiled,
untainted by greed,
ready to share with others.
You don’t see them everyday,
But we know they’re perfect in every way,
They’re the most elegant creature in the world,
And around a branch is where their claws are curled,
I could watch them fly around for hours,
Or watch them fight over tiny flowers,
My favourite thing is that they bring you love,
They honestly are a gift from above
Listen To The Birds
She asked why caged birds sing.
I couldn’t tell her,
not for sure.
No mate will arrive this year,
just like last year.
I wonder if they remember,
perhaps they still
live in hope
or sing in contentment
for their good board and lodging.
She asked why humming birds hum,
if it was their song,
a mating song
or song of joy,
I told her it was a work sound
made by their wings
like bees buzzing,
a song of struggle
“Do they still sing,” she asked.