Oedipus and the Hummingbirds


On the corner of my writing desk leans a pile of notes, clippings, scraps of papers. One leaf of photocopied information contains an illegible scrawl in my handwriting—made with a red felt marker, which I rarely use, the script displaying a rhythmic pattern, wave-like, expressive scratches asserting a strong point. An indecipherable point, but something of importance nonetheless. One portion of the note seems to state the word hummingbird then a few words later rather than Oedipus. Since I do teach Sophocles’ play Antigone, the marginalia could reference the lecture— but why hummingbirds?

This past summer when the Texas landscape burned from drought conditions, migrating hummingbirds became displaced as their territory became engulfed in sudden flames and progressive wildfires. My parent’s backyard transformed into a haven for these miniature birds. Almost every afternoon we would watch handfuls of them stitch across the property line of trees, darting and embroidering the landscape to reach a feeder filled with syrupy nectar— each little warrior representing an idea. A word. An unclaimed sentence. A bridge into a stronger metaphor. A miniature epiphany ready to dart close to a woman’s ear and whisper newly disclosed secrets.

Of course, today, middle of winter, the back gardens are in disarray. Milkweed stalks cut back expose left over weeds spreading out in the mulch. The sight of the backyard generates a sense of overwhelming responsibilities. New projects to finalize— every day a new line added to the list of chores. Oddly enough, Brendan sleeps longer during his afternoon nap; he has merged his two daily naps into one lengthy sleep during the middle of the day. But I am afraid to move sometimes. I know as soon as I start working on something he will awaken and demand a yogurt or some fruit concoction to satisfy his growing desires. So I take projects at a slower pace. Ready to stop and cater to his needs whenever I am the only one in the house. What results, in the end, I allow the projects to sort themselves. The various poems shift and float in the head as carp waiting for food— the larger ones scurry quickly to the surface of the water to gain a mouthful compressed pellets, a new phrase, a rewording, a casual additional word.

Lately I hunt for newer, more elusive wordings. Phonetics which I have unintentionally avoided in the past. Take raunch for instance, or vulgarity,— the typical word that would not appear in a haiku. A rust-covered shovel or decomposed remains of a bird—I have said this already in the past weeks. But it bears repeating. Reinforcing the intentions into my consciousness, into my active writing mind. My series of haiku dealing with a dive dance club continue to develop themselves. It’s interesting how a series of short fractured verses blend and blur into something larger.

A handful of my own favorites:
17/ A man just walks in— wears a dragonfly tattoo on his left shoulder.

24/ As he walks into the back room his dragonfly tattoo flutters once.

26/ Waiting to score a trick, he leans in the alley— breathes in smoke— exhales.


More important: in March I will be participating in a poetry reading in New York. Twenty-five poets in Manhattan reciting their work. Building up a sense of nervousness considering what poem to read, what jacket to wear, what ad lib remark to introduce the work. Full information can be viewed here: Assaracus: A Celebration of Gay Poetry.

Still cannot comprehend my old note—human? humanity? humus? Maybe in a few days the verbiage will click again once I go over the full page of notes. Then again, making a connection between hummingbirds and Oedipus would be interesting.


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