Picturing poets

In "The Face of Poetry" (University of California Press: 354 pp., $29.95 paper), editor Zack Rogow and photographer Margaretta K. Mitchell showcase the words and faces of 46 American poets, including Harryette Mullen, Mark Doty, Aleida Rodriguez and Ishmael Reed. Here, Maxine Hong Kingston waxes elegiac on that most ethereal of creatures, the hummingbird.




Maxine Hong Kingston


I'm living in one place so long,

the birds enlace their nests

with my white hair.

I'd like their recognizing me in return.

I play a game with hummingbirds.

I play the hose in jets and spouts,

and the hummer follows the water,

loops and soars, turns and hovers, leaps.

I shorten the arc toward myself,

and the hummer comes to my hands.

It enters the fine spray; it flies in the spray.

It alights on the tomato cage, and waits,

raises a wing, gets a squirt in one armpit,

and the other armpit. It shows its butt

and wiggles its tail. What's that gold thread?

The hummer is spraying me back.

There's a yellow bird that is barely anything

but a reed, a tube of song.

Its beak opens as wide as its throat, its body,

which trembles through and through.

It's a yellow-feathered skinbag of song,

and it sings all day.

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