Yet Another Hummingbird Poem
NOTES OF CAPITAO EDUARDO GONZALES
IN PREPARATION FOR A REPORT TO HIS EXCELLENCY
BARON DE TEMANDERE, FIRST ADMIRAL AND COMMANDER
OF THE BRAZILIAN IMPERIAL NAVY, REGARDING THE ACTIVITIES OF THE AMERICAN PAINTER, MARTIN JOHNSON HEADE
-Rio de Janeiro, December 17, 1863
He came with graphite and oils, to paint hummingbirds.
A ghost, he walks among orchids, seeking hummingbirds.
He has arranged his room with easels, a chair, a wicker bed.
He scrawls on foolscap, the floor awash in hummingbirds.
At night he drinks red wine, Bourbon, and port.
He speaks with his hands; his fingers––like hummingbirds.
He picks passion flowers, gardenias and palm fronds.
Next to each, he lays the bodies of hummingbirds.
I have rounded the Horn, and know many lands.
Ceylon was most strange. I remember no hummingbirds.
He supports the Union cause, and freedom for our slaves.
He does not love war. He loves only hummingbirds.
Women come to him so freely.
I pray my sister is not found among his hummingbirds.
I saw him sketch the harbor, and our stone battlements.
He is restless. He wants to paint hummingbirds.
An excellent shot with a fowling piece.
He fears the blood, as he works to skin hummingbirds.
My agents have trailed him at night.
He says he seldom sleeps, and dreams of hummingbirds.
I find him with his sketchbook, staring at the trees.
He says the palms, the banyans, are alive with hummingbirds.
In the steamy mountains, he steps from a mist.
Cradling his sketchbook, babbling of hummingbirds.
For days, the rain was never-ending.
I found him singing scales, shouting, “I am a hummingbird!”
I imagine their breasts––gold and green and red.
I fear I too will dream of colibris.
His leather satchel keeps his most secret things.
The merkins of their tiny nests, the bodies of his hummingbirds.
There are days I yearn for the sea. The sea was
all I knew, before the days of hummingbirds.
I will go with him to the borderlands.
He says the Delft-blue sky will swell with hummingbirds.
I remain your servant, Eduardo Gonzales,
Captain of the Imperial Navy, escrivao of hummingbirds.
This poem first appeared in Shenandoah: The Washington & Lee University Review.