Waxing or Waning, We Didn’t Know
We were stirring pitchers of juleps. The hummingbirds were sparring. Poverty dawned
on us. I said if hummingbirds were as big as poverties, we’d all be sipped through the
beaks of plantation owners who loll on their porches in the closed books of historical
libraries. Have you seen how that trembling bullet pauses to swallow? Aren’t we all
sugar and water, mostly. I heard the hunger of hummingbirds swooping for our
pocketbooks. I felt preyed upon in the nicest way, like it’s either that flicker of a bird or
me that’s going to drop out of a sky that I don’t even know I’m flying in.
Is this car I’m in a Saturn?
It makes me want to orbit something.
I think we are being orbited by that bird.
What could that train be carrying at this time of day?
Probably something emotional, like baseball cards
and cassette tapes – things we keep in our attic.
It’s so tempting to get out of this car. I feel like
I have mail. I feel like there’s a department store
that just got a shipment of pewter finches.
And also bags of colored feathers. And Mylar balloons!
Recordings of our voices when we were children.
Greeting cards with real handwriting, saying things like,
There is nothing you could ever do to keep me
from loving you, and, Happy Month-iversary!
and, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.
I’m sorry if I hurt your foot. No, I’m sorry
if you think your foot is hurt, and I’m sorry
that you think I hurt it. I was just driving around
town looking for a Kentucky Derby party.
I don’t even think I saw you in the parking lot.
I wish I were hungrier, but I also wish I were a tiger.
That day at the tracks, the men outran the horses. I saw a fashion designer
tell a policeman what to do. I saw ladies looking at other ladies in compact
mirrors. Stallions kicked up clouds of face powder. Why? Because the day
was designed by a famous man and assembled by construction workers
who shower after work. A tweed suit shook a doorknob like hand. A door
mistook a woman for a wall. A woman opened her blouse in front of a window.
She pretended nobody was looking. Nobody was looking.
Elizabeth Hughey is the author of Sunday Houses the Sunday House (University of Iowa Press) and Guest Host (forthcoming from the National Poetry Review Press). She is a contributing editor at Bateau Press and a founder of the Desert Island Supply Co., a free creative writing center for kids in the Birmingham area. New poems can be found in American Poetry Review, 27 rue de fleures and the White Whale Review. Elizabeth lives with her husband and two sons in Birmingham, AL, where she teaches creative writing and yoga.