Anniversary Gift

By Robert Cording

Featured Art: Peacock and Dragon by William Morris, 1878

After reading that hummingbirds
are so light eight of them can be mailed
for the price of a first-class stamp,
I close my eyes and see them, fully revived,
rising out of some envelope of old memories.
I’ll name them again as we once did
so long ago—Rufous, Anna’s, and Broad-tailed—
darting to and from the feeders, sipping,
then retreating, flying jewels
the Spanish called them, and now I recall
how one of the Anna’s, its garnet head
and throat glowing in the misted air,
hung like a jewel at your ear.

Here they are, or the memory of them.
Remember that trying-too-hard-to-be-hip
B&B in Telluride, a hot tub on the roof;
above the water, crisscrossing strings
decorated with Japanese lanterns
and four red heart-shaped feeders that brought
close the ebullience of the hummingbirds.
They surged around us, their kaleidoscope
of iridescent colors lightening
the cool, rainy day and helping us forget
the fogged-in, dim presence of the Rockies
we had come for and couldn’t see.
Curtained in the tub’s steaming air,
soon enough our eyes were in love
with birds we couldn’t stop looking at,
their scintillant existence drawing
jeweled lines we swore we could see.
Which is why I’m bringing back the past,
those tiny birds disappearing
into all the years behind us now,
but today returning all at once,
as if some blessing had been conferred
without my asking; and so
I offer them to you, hoping these words,
even though they dim the colors as they must,
will draw for you their sweet transport.

Robert Cording has published eight collections of poems: Life-list, What Binds Us To This World, Heavy Grace, Against Consolation, Common Life, Walking With Ruskin, A Word in My Mouth: Selected Spiritual Poems, and, most recently, Only So Far.

Originally appeared in NOR 20.

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