Sandwiched in age
my two older sisters
and ten years my senior,
he is someone from so long ago
that he seems more myth than actuality.
Yet when he asks me to write a poem
even now, more than a year after the reunion
and sixty years since I had seen him before that,
honored to be noticed,
as little kids are with older kids,
I comply with his wishes.
My first hummingbird days, Jim,
centered around the trumpet vine
that clung to the trellis
on the south side of our big front porch.
It was the side you wouldn’t have seen
as you walked from your house to the grade school
across the street from us,
but it was where
loved to hang out.
I lay on the porch on my stomach
on a folded-over blanket,
chin on my fists,
legs crossed at the ankles,
to watch their thrusting flights,
or stood on the concrete sidewalk—
roughened to prevent falls on the ice in winter,
but its numerous small ravines
filled nonetheless with my flesh—
the remainders of knees oft-skinned
while attempting to round its curve
on roller skates,
or simply from falls during rushed passages
in the heat of a game of hide-and-seek
or cops and robbers.
Whether I lay or stood
made no difference
to the hummingbirds
who executed their
sweep and dart, then paused suspended,
wings creating great outspread parasails
that held their small bodies
motionless in mid-air as they sipped
nectar from the speckled throats
of orange honeysuckle blooms,
profuse and heavy on their tangled vines.
Shifting to the nearby grass,
I closed my eyes to the music of their wings,
opened my eyes to see their blur—
another smudged memory
that moved too quickly
out of hearing
and of sight.