The Humming-Bird

The sundial makes no sign
At the point of the August noon.
The sky is of ancient tin,
And the ring of the mountains diffused and unmade
(One always remembers them).
On the twisted dark of the hemlock hedge
Rain, like a line of shivering violin-bows
Hissing together, poised on the last turgescent swell,
Batters the flowers.
Under the trumpet-vine arbor,
Clear, precise as an Audubon print,
           The air is of melted glass,
           Solid, filling interstices
Of leaves that are spaced on the spines
           Like a pattern ground into glass;
           Dead, as though dull red glass were poured into the mouth,
Choking the breath, molding itself into the creases of soft red tissues.

And a humming-bird darts head first,
Splitting the air, keen as a spurt of fire shot from the blow-pipe,
Cracking a star of rays; dives like a flash of fire,
Forked tail lancing the air, into the immobile trumpet;
Stands on the air, wings like a triple shadow
Whizzing around him.

Shadows thrown on the midnight streets by a snow-flecked arc-light,
Shadows like sword-play,
Splinters and spines from a thousand dreams
Whizz from his wings!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.