Mourning, with Hummingbirds
for my father
Days later I sat on the porch, the baby colicky in my arms.
A jay tumbled behind us, cornered
by a jewel-green bird flying in crosses, reversing
above our heads. Her needle-beak, a threat.
I remembered the hummingbird in Carole Oles’ poem,
how sudden the slip through doorways. That fast.
I wept when I read it, only I didn’t have children then.
That same year I lay with a man I did not yet love,
listened to BB King sing about his hummingbird woman.
Don’t fly, he sang.
Seems all wrong to call them birds,
the word itself like a stone.
In the foothills, Grandpa Grady said, folks leave sweet water
out too late in the season, and the ruby throats
can’t trust their clocks, are taken by frost.
We stood in Grandma’s garden once.
Would you remember if you were here?
The mildew stink of geraniums all around us.
A hummingbird whirred close to my head, startled me.
You pointed and said if a hummingbird stills his wings, he dies.
I was young enough to believe you.