April 13, 2010

Ann Tweedy

NATURE ESSAY

did you know, if you have a yard
in the right climate, it’s probably patrolled
by one male hummingbird? like the god
who knows every hair on your head,
this bird has memorized each flower
in your yard, including the precise times
at which their nectar cups fill up.

in this way, he can manage
his realm (and his sugar fixes)
efficiently. when he’s not busy drinking,
he catches insects and defends your yard
against intruder hummingbirds.
so, if, like most americans, you harbor
many secret fears, one of which is being
overrun, you can delete that one.

female hummingbirds, by contrast,
tend to lay low so as not to rile
their touchy counterparts. their reasons
to survive are bigger than whatever charge
they’d get from gorging on nectar cups.

many different conclusions can be drawn.
for one, it seems clear that the image
of the hummer with its long beak buried
in a trumpet-like flower is indeed phallic.
another is that, for the benefit of survival,
it is sometimes necessary to weigh
the costs of pleasure carefully. finally,
you might apprehend that you do not really
own your property: some hummingbird probably
has an equally valid claim and knows it more intimately.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005