Hummingbird / Ash Wednesday

by Robert Novick

Over the calla lilies
Midday cloud shadows raced.

The hummingbird darted and stalled.
Among the inverted violet bells.

Upon his throat, an iridescent ruby gorget
Nestled within the thick green
Of his feathers.
Through the rustling foliage
He dove and emerged
On the other side, slid up
Through the halcyon air.

His wings in swiftness whirred, as he shot
To dip into the flower folds.
Up again he hastened—away—
Smeared by motion into
Streaming emerald and blurring blush

Forward toward the torpor
That awaited him beyond.


Ash Wednesday

Because my blood flows thick and sour
Because my blood dries
Because my blood flows thick
Reaching for this woman’s thighs and that man’s blindness
I receive rejection each time and cut my cord
(What summons this captured hummingbird?)
What memory stands
When no silence voices louder than nothing?

Because blood so thickly sours
The crazy clock on the South Hall wall
Races hands in furious circles
The illusion of time, ineffable stones
Cry out and now the day of Peace
Hidden from your eyes,
There, nicotine walls, cat shit furnace vents, the stir
of stagnant poison.

Because the clocks achieve atomic
And the hills fall from the lake
And the suffering covered
Under heavy metals and ash
I hear the report on Democracy Now
I curse the clean and dirty coal
I recoil from my need for warmth
Because my blood is all dried up
Invariably something must flow, cutting into my flesh
As something must be felt again.

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I will recall
The praises upon the contemporaries I envy
Envy too much
Because my blood thickens and sours
Let this silence recoil
And trick the kids into never being tricked again
May forgiveness shower our lives

The hummingbird smacks, trapped in glass
A thump and click and silence
That which freedom transformed through choice
Smaller still as rhetoric grows
Forgive the children for plucking wings.
Forgive us all.

Spread ashes now and scatter them then
Only through birth is it possible to be reborn.


Lady, three thrushes gathered around my doorstep
As the morning sun rose, having defeated night
In order to blaze into me magnified, microscopic,
In the irregular edge of perception. And God said
Shall they encircle you? Shall they
Hem you in? And that which was spoken
During morning (which circled into dusk) changed;
Because of your sacrifice
And because of your pure desire, and because
You rest a shadow of fourth under thirds,
Morning brushes flick. And I who imagine this
Offer my doubt and uncertainty to love. And my
Bitter anguish I bury like seeds so they will sink.
And this is what remains
My mind full of binary rejection and anticipation
Which the birds describe. Lady come to me
In your pink slippers, in honesty, in pink slippers.
Scatter my doubt because I cannot contain it.
There is no form to my thoughts. I am formless
And have been formless before, so through samsara
I remain deluded, looking through the wind,
The rain coats my sight. And the blood rushes
Through the hunger of a carnivore, rushing

Lady of purity
Disparate and lovely
Light of salvation
Forged and remembered
Cancelled and added
Sullen, petrified,
The single light
Is now the sky
Where space ends
Flourish into that
Vicissitude and light
Of reciprocation
The silent loneliness
Of unrequited love
Born into being
Indeterminate and alive
A word that begins
And ends in dissolution
The first forever ago
Unexhausted enormous
Subtle and substantial
Nothing but love
In this and that.

The light shone after the long night, cast like messages
Suspended and reflected from motes, all separately
Under such golden light, the glistened dew
They remember the separation, and
Tear their robes in the rain. The voices rise
Through melody united. And neither voice nor silence
Defines. This is unity. We are forgiven.


At first glance I noticed her eyes
Glaring at me from above
The same eyes from adoration, before
Familiarity twisted away novelty,
Waltzing through with the smile of a sage who rages
Against the deformity of personal despair.

At second glance I saw her face
Countenance aglow, leaving me aghast
As it vanished into darkness toward light far below
Fertile, assured, like a prophet’s vehicle delivering, beyond
Or the guileless smile from a succubus.

As I searched memory for her face
I remembered a beautiful room filled with white pillows
As the sun shone through muslin drapes that fluttered
Like the flute of a shepherd in the distance
Who lulled the flock in the distance
Before chasing them on cloven hooves,
Swiftly in frolic, swift as grinning wind through silver,
Daisy spiral swiftness;
As she fluffed the pillows and drew me back, and back to the
memory, the removal of flute,
Resound, resound; memory beyond reality
In memory, beyond experience.

Lord, gather them in your pen
Lord, gather them in your pen

but set them free in memory.


Who gathered all the butterflies in language
Who spoke of flight
And memories and dreams, in Mary’s light,
Wrapped in material things
Surrounded by terrible diamonds that never fade,
Who caught the bottle and sang a lullaby,
Who unleashed the chrysalis into strength
Who then dried wings and flowed blood and made new
the emergent life

Made sweet the sound of sorrow
In hues of amber dreams, amber of alleviation,
Ever mindful

Here are the years that separate, wilting
Through the celebration and inebriation
One who swaddles the past in thick pillows,

Bearing the rainbow serpent, the colored beads,
The new sweetness of song, reverberating
Through a spectrum of tears, the memories, reaching
Past the death to the coldness of the bomb. Sing
Of separation. Sing
In the liberating staccato of memory
While your dreams like a chariot pull the sky.

The growing child in blue and green
Beyond white pillows and distant pastures
Sing like the thrushes in your morning sun, but
flock only once

But the mind swells up and the sun rains down
Resound the past, retain reminiscence
The spokes of the world unfurled and moving

Till the voice sets forth the light once more

And after this, we are reborn.

Category: Poetry