for Erik Lemke (1979-2012)
1. A hummingbird flies into a window that looks like the sky. Everything around here looks like the sky. The sky looks tiger striped. They call that kind of cloud something. I know somebody who knows about clouds. I could find out the name. Everything around here has a name. 2. The hummingbird fell to the deck. My husband picked it up. —What did it feel like in your hand? —Nothing. It felt like nothing. —Where is it now? —Gone. —Dead? —Not dead. It flew away. It disappeared and it disappeared again. 3. I’ll tell you a joke. A hummingbird flew into a window… I’ll tell you another joke. Treachery, we were friends once. 4. In dreams the bird weighs more, so you can feel it when you pick it up. So when it dies it seems like something actually happened. It’s a word bound around your hand and a sign at the stripped road. A mylar star on a plastic stick tied to the sign. Blacktop. Post. A fat star’s wrinkles taut. It’s stuffed. It’s shining. There’s going to be a party around here somewhere. The bird weighs nothing waits nowhere. The sky looks like a window and it flies right through.
"'Tigers' is an elegy for my friend, the poet Erik Lemke, who was as sharp and funny and caring as anyone I've met. This poem is an attempt to apprehend his death, a loss so sudden and nonsensical it seemed impossible.
Here are some lines from a poem of Erik's, 'Still Life with Straw and Rags':
...in the evening, in the darkness, dreaming of the stunned robin, how the bird’s feathers had caught in the rings of its hands"