Xantus’s Hummingbirds


Or the word for immanence, which I am told is called looking at trees I know because the kid secretly circles in her book

glittering green upperparts, black face with distinct white stripe behind their eyes,


cinnamon-brown belly. Squared tail is rufous, which means reddish brown only better.

She changes her dog’s name in gratitude to Mary; Mary wakes up every time someone gets named after her;


her mind says hello to all the objects not named after her, some of whom will get to be hummingbirds.

Feelings before stars, glitter after. The wow of vagrants up the west coast all the way to British Columbia.


I swear I saw one she tells her mom. Love is to be amazed, find three dollars in your shirt pocket,

have a bird named after you, name everything you love Mary.



Himalayan Snowcocks


I write and I love what I write. I write and I love and I have no fear I get along with my family;

they braid my hair, they lead me into the mountains.


We turn into horses and our conversations are epic, so we gallop looking for riders then we are

people again and naked and our conversations are manageable our riders let go they have poems to write.


Where are the snowcocks we’ve come so far to see I’m asking my cousin Jack, my uncle Arnie, so happy to see them but

instead of answering, the answers are obvious, we are part of the slanting of this world we used to live on alpine pastures, on steep rocky cliffs.


We dive down hill slopes to escape we get transplanted to the Ruby Mountains in 1961.

We persist in a state of Nevada. A sort of world where the past will go.


Feeding on grasses, sedges and forbs the Himalayan snowcocks graze above us and we are

where we’ve always been; the large, heavy parts shelter. People visit us in helicopters.



White-faced Storm Petrels


Found in three oceans. Will sell and horizon all circles. I won’t escape, I just won’t land,

I’ll stay at sea because I think more clearly there, even though it’s the same thought,


over and over, of escape. No one is circled don’t worry about it but I’m thinking love has to be

in it because nothing is poetry without doing the sexy dance all the storm petrels say.


The secret is to get into one of those cores of Gulf Stream water that drift over the continental shelf edge area.

Coast of the profound body, I want out and I keep pogoing back, smelling of my body, the sea and my body.


A body says you have to perform your body; on even the most remote islands they will only

make love in the dark. I thought my shirt only unbuttoned so much. The full moon is too much.


Eating oil with all the other orphans. Repairing the damage will not be easy. The planning director

leads the way on foot the other morning from the train station to the new blossoming.


He points out to the river and the river pours into the ocean, the gulls found there circle

and grudgingly give way to never-resting petrels this land is my land he says and that sea is your alphabet.


Which makes us stories and someone is editing us they want to make the good parts better.

We keep mattering. Looking forward to the next time.



Magnificent Birds-of-paradise


Fuck around. This is the great unfolding of facts more brightly so then you’re the sea and flight

like love is just falling in reverse let me show you, let me, I am a collage of skies I know what I’m doing,


because I’m doing it all the time, because my plumage is exceedingly complex, and territorial vibrations I’m

down with the weedspearing unorthodoxies, babe, my feathers hex all upanishads and mafia!


The upper canopy! Exclusive mountains! Rocking plumage displays!

I’m so good you’re going to stop drinking diet soda after you sleep with me!



Flame-colored Tanagers


Live in small groups, in sky islands, debt free, the earth tells them, there’s room in the trees,

in the cool and dark shade, enough seeds, concealed, just visiting from Mexico and asking


if you need rhetoric to explain that you don’t explain because she is holy you perch on her hand

you gladly pull feathers from your chest to ornament her she’s looking for a bird to put in her mouth.


Obviously, why say things smoothly, as if, if you do, at last they’ll love you, feed you like you were their favorite?

The bad parts are thinking how to make the good parts better by seducing them with exquisite mating songs.


Soft as your wife’s feathers, a flame-colored tanager flies out of her mouth and at first

he’s stunned to be reborn, sheltering beneath her holiness, her crown, her olive-green body,


her black wings! It always keeps starting, she tells him, I don’t have to tell you this.

Even if all our names are on a list he says, I keep flying north, flight is my mother’s gift.



About the Author

Hugh is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press), as well as three Dusie chapbooks, Sorcery, Good Morning!and The Sound of Music. Bird poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from such places as Spork, Fence, South Dakota Review, Denver Quarterly, Entropy, Kenyon Review and Ping-Pong. He’s a member of the non-ranked faculty collective bargaining team at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.