Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Hummingbird Heart

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Anonymous Hummingbird Photos

          at the Masters

Flamelike: the greens at Augusta National,
young, muscled golfers driving long fairways,
cocky, yet affectless in their cool;
rifling ball-helixes, DNA stairways.

There, spectral-against-cloud-lordly, Tiger Woods,
red shirt for a Sunday, day of decisive plays.
Strong wraith of his prodigy young self, Tiger broods,
mind-angling, each stride, billiards on a green baize.

What curvature, warp of the lawn-stripe, to the hole.
What choice of iron, what topspin, or what graze
or touch with which to tap along the swale
one roll that eyes the cup or veers or strays.

One stroke whose glide or swerve puts paid to doubt.
The O of the swallowed shot, of the unison crowd shout.

            (Omission in a Robert Frost book)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
One poem, twice printed, or so it said.
I read the two-roads work, in the foreword
Given in full, like sample bread.

The poem, well-scuffed, does not want wear.
Far other than rub it smoother down,
Some power must think it too unfair
To print it twice. What verse won’t frown

To see itself once-honored, left
To editor’s-impulse pick of place,
While this famed piece, not over-deft,
Appears twice, flaunting its clone face?

Yet strange: once-printed, announced for, twice,
Assigned for encore by sector of book,
Omitted by accident or device,
Empty space where that page goes (we look).

This crossroads poem once traveled by,
Page number allotted, page left out,
Allows the reader no second sigh,
No second embrace of that pathway doubt.


When I surmise how soon the hummingbird
became your prime totemic symbol, might
and vibrancy consumed in hectic flight,
I muse how, aquatint, poetic word,
or deep subconscious figure in yourself,
how it sums up—that brisk epitome
of hovercraft suspension on a shelf
of light, of retrograde celerity—
what rhythms will engage your imaginative
and active eye. That drumroll thrum of heart,
does it triphammer, systole-diastole,
like yours; strive, agitate, and overgive
of anxious, febrile shudders in each dart
for nectars clenched within a bloom’s control?

May you not resign that coppery-red flash
that touches off your art, your verve, your dash.


Shakespeare, our “great Oxford,” earl
In life but sovereign in poetry,
Your deepest, truest work’s a whirl
Of brainworms trouncing serenity.

Hamlet’s doubt of ghosts foreseen in
Your Joan of Arc, trusting her saints
Who prompt her Lucifer-like to sin.*
Angelic yet poxed with hidden taints.

Nothing is as it seems: the good
Fair warrior Desdemona elopes;
Defiance of father insinuates,

In Othello, hints that expand by brood.
Iago’s dark whisper shatters hopes.
Innocent bedchambers let in the Fates.

*Joan La Pucelle, in
Henry VI, Part One


One more spring day will mystically transform
the whole year to an eternally spring year.
So fully we shift from old norm to new norm,
we may forget how fragile is the clear,
the warm. We now will take for granted blue
translucent weather, saving for the night
our black reminder that space and stars cut through,
fretful remembrance that we lose every light.

Yet this much has been granted us, so rich
that under the drug-deep influence of day,
while azure intoxication seeks to pelt
us asteroid-like, we drop our guard, unhitch
all caution. The CHP man, driving away,
so casually fastens his lap and shoulder belt.  


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.H. Lawrence

I can imagine, in some otherworld

Primeval-dumb, far back

In that most awful stillness, that gasped and hummed,

Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,

While life was a heave of matter, half inanimate,

This little bit chirped off in brilliance

And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers then,

In the world where humming-birds flashed ahead of creation

I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

Probably he was big

As mosses, and little lizards, they say, were once big.

Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.

We look at him through the wrong end of the telescope of time,

Luckily for us.


Thank you, Tom Goff, for your smooth verse today and for giving me an excuse to post hummingbirds! Those of us who are Of An Age are grateful to the Tiger in the Woods for showing what can be done with these older vintages…

Poetry Off-the-Shelves meets in Placerville today at 5pm at the Sr. Center on Spring Street. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Ekphrasis co-editor Laverne Frith is a reviewer at New York Journal of Books, and he has a new review out at Check it out!

—Medusa, celebrating poetry!

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in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.