A Hummingbird Suite – poetry by David Chorlton

A Hummingbird Suite

I
. . . and their image was impressed
upon land the rain scarcely knew, in limestone
that endures the passing
of the sun, so they can be seen
by the gods of light
when their time comes to seek
refuge on Earth.

II
In the age before, an evil spirit
gambled against the sun
and lost,
…………….then in his anger spat
lava enough to burn all
the Earth. Where the tall and mighty
failed, a hummingbird
went out to gather clouds
from which
……………………the rain extinguished
every fire. Daily now
the bird appears atop the sunrise
displaying on its throat
the colors it acquired
flying through the rainbow.

III
From any window, at any given time, one
may be seen to hover
by the desert willow, at the lantana in bloom,
in a tangle of mesquite,
…………………………………….with a heart
that beats two hundred times
each second, and sixty seconds
in every minute of its life.

IV
The oldest story is
that people lived inside the ground
until they sent a hummingbird
up and out to see
what was above. The newer version
has us burdened with ourselves, all darkness
and anxiety,
……………………but the fluorescent
reflection in a falling raindrop
says to live on.

V
The elders could not see beyond blue sky
to know what forces
gathered there for good
or evil, or
to keep the planet’s place
within the universe,
……………………………………so they freed
the hummingbird from the tendrils that bound it
to them and waited
for it to return and describe
the other side of existence.
So it came back
………………………….even brighter
than it had been, and hovered in air
to display itself as part
of the only world created.

VI
At two o’clock each afternoon
thunder breaks and the sky
pours down into
a forest where lightning
spears an errant leaf
from the tip of which a Violet Sabrewing
drinks green rain.

VII
Of lichens, down, and spider silk, the nests
can float on storms
and when the eggs have hatched
expand. After fledging time
it holds a while
to the branch like a purse whose only penny
bought redemption.

VIII
A Costa’s hummingbird, each afternoon,
rests on the slender inches
growing out from an ocotillo stem
and prints a silhouette
against the air, moving only
for preening as he lifts a wing to scratch
beneath it and briefly spread
his tail before he turns his beak a few degrees
to be a compass needle for the sun.

IX
Because we have no better explanation
we shall say
that fallen warriors ascend
to the sun, where they become
hummingbirds and return to Earth. We
shall say that each moment spent
watching their feathers glow
brings us more than a lifetime
in war.

X
We see
but do not hear
the Anna’s hummingbird until
it is close
and the wings vibrate in sympathy
with the red
gorget.

XI
While the larger birds enlisted
to defend the skies: the hawks
and eagles with their wings spanned wide
and talons unsheathed,
those who occupied the deserts and
leafy canyons called
……………………………………on hummingbirds
to dazzle any threat that came their way
with drops of color flashing. While condors rattled
in their armor
high above the world,
the Emerald and Woodstar
colluded with a Thorntail to reclaim with grace
what fate and force
had stolen.

XII
Then we shall say they bring rain.
For in a lasting drought we have
no other hope. And if rain does not come
we shall say we lived in beauty
to the end.

 

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and reflect his affection for the natural world. His newest book publication is Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s