Kelly Hambly

Essential Materials for A Love Charm

A hummingbird hovers
in the thick, humid air
when I take the dog
for his first morning piss.
The bird darts in
all unholy directions
close enough to touch
as if it’s trying
to send me a message
encoded in wing beats.

The medicine cards say
that hummingbird signifies
a lightness of being,
an ability to be present
to life’s inexplicable joys,
even those, such as these,
which shatter.
The feathers are often
used in love charms,
but no tiny feather
drops into the hand
I offer in open,
begging prayer.

I only have my words
and I choose them
with an undertaker’s care,
hoping each will pry
the day open wider
and let more of me fit
into the shrinking crack
between now and
when you are gone.

I tell you of the melody,
the high lonesome harmony
that sang such sweetness
through the silver light at dawn.
I tell you how beautiful I felt
barefoot in the dew
beneath near-static flight,
and you say the hummingbird
must have wanted to be close
to something sweet and beautiful, too.

You mean me, of course,
and I clutch the truth of my charms.
It is the only thing I get to keep.

We buried the hummingbird,
my daughter and I – wrapped it
in a square of green silk cut
from the mermaid costume
she wore when she was four,
the same green as the feathers
the color of ocean and sunshine
as seen from rippled sand
beneath the waves of the Atlantic.

She thinks the tears pooling
at the edge of my chin,
where the skin seems so loose,
as if I, too, am giving in to gravity,
are for the bird, and I suppose
they are in a way. I can’t help
but cry for the loss of flight,
for the sudden absence of
this nectar-sipping proboscis
in my Monarda patch.

I pluck a tiny feather
from the tail, and when
she dips her face close
to whisper goodbye,
I tuck it under my tongue.
I will have my love charm,
even if I must
its hollow shaft.

Of late I’ve been afflicted
by too many hummingbirds;
every poem starts
with a winged trickster
darting into my thoughts,
sucking out the sweetness
instantly recalling to me
the hopelessness
of the words I wrote
before I understood

ticking clocks,
body lanterns,
dipping down,
stacks of pages

I do not wish to see
how wrong I got it –
the message I thought
that bird was trying to impart.
He only wanted me
to step away from his babies,
knowing how close I was to
tearing my own nest to shreds.

Source & Method

I wrote this in stages as I found sparks from “Medicine Cards,” Jamie Sams; “Hummingbird,” Dorianne Laux; “Complaint and Plea,” Jim Harrison. I thought it was done with part i. but it continued to grow.

i. Information about hummingbird meaning and its feathers being used for love charms from Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals by Jamie Sams and David Carson

ii. “We buried the hummingbird” is the first line in Dorianne Laux’ “Hummingbird” in the collection Facts About the Moon, ©2006 W. W. Norton and Co.

iii. “Of late I’ve been afflicted by too many hummingbirds” is the first line in Jim Harrison’s “Complaint & Plea” in the collection In Search of Small Gods, ©2010 Copper Canyon Press

Kelly Hambly is a hungry-for-home New Englander living in Kent, Ohio where she writes poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction in the spaces between her work as a marketing and advertising copywriter.

Issue 25