Lake Effect, Spring 2016, Volume 20: "To See the Hummingbirds as They Fly Through the Trees"

To See the Hummingbirds as They Fly Through the Trees

by Aimee Parkison


Perpetual outsiders like me love to eavesdrop. That’s how I heard her. Tonight, the howling lady to the tree said, Thank you for shelter. Inside our house, she looks at the ceiling when hunting the gray-feet shadows climbing up the walls. You, my love, grind a tick against her neck and call it acquaintance murder. You never learned how to see her, to really see her, as you see me, while gazing into that antique mirror where I was a disappointment of skin like the rest of our family.

Blindsided by the sea, the howling woman was one of many tattered war brides who became memories tossed away with letters. The letters were like gull feathers that floated along the water to navy men who became one with the sea.

Hearts will be broken like windows, she said, by vandals, by time, by hail, by earthquakes, by thieves, by fire, by young boys.

This sorrow is part of civilian life where dead women feud like prisoners of war, not knowing they are ghosts.

Why do wars bring lovers together? Someone has to tell the living that torture is sometimes sexual the way a hearse can be mistaken for a limo.

Love can be mistaken for lust.

Hunger takes over. Who knows the truth about the hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds enter the narrow bell-shaped petals of trumpet flowers as they feed, and yet the rest of us have to keep reminding the lovers that people are beheaded in burn cages as video cameras capture the moment for all to see. Someone who matters enough to kill and enough for us to watch them die again and again should matter enough to bury, yet it’s so hard to find the graves just as it’s so hard sometimes to see the hummingbirds as they fly through the trees. The green hummingbirds’ feathers are the color of the leaves. As the lovers kiss, I want to fall in love with you. Something stops me in the leaves where we walk. Images of the beheadings enter my head the way the hummingbirds enter the flowers of the trumpet vines.

As the howling lady becomes silent, we watch videos of people dying by fire; again and again we watch on YouTube. I try to shut it out of my mind, to think of the hummingbirds, the lovers kissing as the men scream and the howling woman begins to sing.