for Erik Lemke (1979-2012)


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. 


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? 
—Not dead. It flew away. It disappeared and it disappeared again. 


I’ll tell you a joke. A hummingbird flew into a window…

I’ll tell you another joke. Treachery, 
we were friends once. 


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 

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

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.



Copyright © 2013 by Melissa Ginsburg. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 1, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"'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"
—Melissa Ginsburg