Archive for July, 2015


Some things I would prefer not to look at too closely.

A hummingbird is one.

Also, my wishes.

I want to look at the hummingbird closely, but I would prefer not to, because seeing all the tiny, exquisite details – means that the bird is not moving. A still hummingbird is dead, like the one I found on the pavement this morning. The color drew my eye – I was expecting it to be a cicada. Its upper feathers are just the same iridescent green as a cicada (the living or dead, winged cicada, but not the amber molt), and it was the same size. Which, for a bird, is tiny. I think it must have hit the glass, as I found it just at the base of a large window.

(“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff – and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.”)

It cannot have been there long, because the ants had not found it at all. I carried it home cupped in my hand, its body so light that I could only feel it there because the breeze caught its small, rigid wing, so that it gently vibrated against my fingers. Still humming even in death.

At home Mark and Seth and I bent our heads over it, sadly, curiously. We marvelled at its tiny curled black feet. Its shining green back. Its neat, perfect wings and tail. The long, clear tongue protruding from the long, black beak, which seemed to say that it died thirsty. That was the saddest detail, but also the most fascinating. How else would we ever have been able to look at a hummingbird tongue?

I can’t stop looking at it, and I wish I knew a way to preserve it (that is not horrible). But more than that I wish that, like the luna moth, it would turn out not to be dead after all – that it would suddenly begin to vibrate and then we could let it go and it would fly away.

I wish so many things. I’m basically a wishing machine. And I do firmly believe that Freud is right about dreams being the expression of wishes. Repressed wishes, he says, but I tend to think that dreams can also express wishes that are not repressed – wishes of which we can become conscious, but maybe would prefer not to. What I like about dreams, though, is the intricate ways they conceal or subvert the expression of those wishes, repressed or not. I like the dreamwork. I love the ways that my sleeping brain obscures, twists, and transforms my wishes into something artful, beautiful, and clever.

Like the dream where my friend is painting a portrait of my husband, but in the portrait he is transformed into a collection of smooth stones, covered in canvas and tied with string, and I am dressed in a fox costume made out of small, brightly painted, geometrically shaped pieces of wood. Maybe I’m revealing you all my secrets just by describing that, but I certainly haven’t puzzled it out. I’d rather not – I prefer not to see the wishes too plainly.

Because sometimes there is a dream that is not artful at all, that shows me exactly what I want so plainly that my heart aches for days afterwards. That’s the dream I woke up from this morning. That dream laid my wishes so fucking bare, it was like looking at the sun. I can’t tell all of it. But I was home, in the first and maybe last place that will ever feel like home. Just when I thought maybe this felt like home, there is the dream to measure that distance. My family was there – mother, aunts, uncles, cousins. I ran down the stairs; I leapt down the stairs. I practically flew down them. Someone I loved was sitting in a chair by the wood-burning stove. By the hearth. Smiling at me with such warmth.

Fuck you, dream. I don’t want to see that. It’s a joke – a mockery. If you see what you wish for too plainly, it will break your heart. I’d rather it blur, vibrate, fly away. I’d rather see it just in flashes than in such unflinching light. The dream isn’t alive; it’s beautiful, but it’s not alive.

Sometimes birds would get into that stovepipe. We’d hear them scratching and flapping all the way down. It was a long stovepipe. Once the noise was in the stove rather than in the pipe, we’d carefully open the door, and there would be a few moments of dark grabbing and desperate fluttering and then hands and bird would emerge, tense and covered in ashes. We would carry the bird outside, deposit it confused and dirty on the deck. I don’t remember those birds flying away, but I remember the frantic shivering of a bird in my hands, and the frantic pounding of my own heart, my panic caught from the bird. I don’t remember what those birds looked like, what kind of birds they were. We didn’t look at them – we didn’t have a chance. What was important was, we saved their lives.


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