Hummingbird Wake

Afternoon into dinner

I try to paint the trees over the river, textured bark, thick-green late-summer leaves, their purple undersides, and every white glint the river beams to me. I try to congeal this person in her afternoon walk as she steps into frame with the sapling that pops from the splitting rock on the opposite bank. But my wide, emotional brushstrokes smear this golden-rectangle canvas into an amorphous collage. I pack up paints and brushes and leave less satisfied than if I’d come and sit still.

On the way back through the park I find a dead hummingbird—motionless while lit with green and purple wings. I scoop it onto the back of the painting. Its fine-edged intricacy gives a perfect copy of light as if funneled into focus from the soft, chaotic heat of the lavender and green that seeps through the canvas.

At home I put the hummingbird in the freezer and bring a pot of water to a boil.

After dinner with the moonrise

The canyon is dense with trees over bushes over the stream. Drying leaves on the tallest glow red with the low moon. Wind brings me the scent and brings down the petals as they finish breathing. They flurry through the park on the moving air as if enacting the cycle before merging back in: moved to bud, vein into shapes, then tire and flake like a thought into a dream.

Fallen leaves pool at the base of the hillside. I sweep a load between forearms and carry them, the smell like dirt and bread, to the top of the hill for light. I spread them in a smear, a cough of red and yellow painted by the orange moon, an armful sample with as many shapes and hues, corners on smooth as there are birds with unique wings.

In bed under blankets

This buzzing mind darts in front of me like a hummingbird skimming the surface of the river, chest as a fog of purple-green above the stream. Smooth rings spread in groups from its wings and are lapped by the banks where my thoughts, like loose sand, dissolve into the saliva of sleep. The down in my quilt turns to leaves and I'm in the park with currents of autumn washing over me; dry red and brittle orange evanesce into the smooth warmth of soil. The wind rustles loose a few remaining thoughts and spins them into eddy dreams. In one the hummingbird softens into soil through the back of this skull while breath drifts to mist from a mouth at the base of the tree.

In the morning with the sunshine

I drop the frozen hummingbird into the light snow. Purple, green, and dense—it sinks like a spark into the soft glow.