Tiny Terror

digital artwork from a photoHummingbird Unmasked

My beak’s a single fang I sink in artery or vein

And none suspect me of this drink but clinically insane

And paranoid-type fantasists whom no one else believes

When they accuse the pretty bird that flits in flowers and leaves.

Though tiny as a bumblebee, I may grow round and bloated;

The nectar of your heart is how I keep my Ruby-Throated

Good looks and family heritage (and, not the least, my name),

My shapely belly and my speed of flying fast as flame.

It’s not that I’m nefarious, invidious or rude,

But merely that I have a taste for human blood as food,

And do not fear: I’d never kill you outright when I dine—

Far rather sip and savor you as vintage claret wine.digital artwork from a photo


Moth Mythos

Moths have a potent duality of effects on me: they attract and repel with just about equal force. On the one hand, there is their Victorian opulence of velvet wings and ostrich-feathered antennae and their widely looping sweeps of flight as if borne effortlessly on air currents themselves rather than lofting on and above them under power. They can look like jewels tossed into the air or, as hawk moths can sometimes do, trick the unwary watcher into thinking they’re bright, buzzing hummingbirds on the wing.

On the other hand, that sort of squishy, bloated, heavy softness of moths’ bodies and their voracious appetites for things I’d rather have kept to myself (dry goods in the pantry, tender leaves in the garden, and favorite fine woolens) fills me with nervousness that makes the revulsion they inspire in horror stories utterly plausible to me. I can’t help but remember the sweltering summer night when I was young and my family, having been out for a happy holiday evening, stopped at the local gas station to refill the bottomless tank of our giant station wagon; since it was so sweltering, we all piled out of the car to go into the tiny, grubby cashier’s hut where an electric fan was humming and, having an uneasy sense of something untoward behind me, I turned around to see a veritable dust storm of fat moths, attracted by the shop’s fluorescent lights, throwing themselves in spongy, flapping frenzy at the glaring glass until it was almost opaque with their wing-scale dust. Oh, yes, and the fabulously nasty short story ‘The Cocoon’ (John B. L. Goodwin) has never quite left my subconscious mind (awake or asleep) once I read it a few decades ago.

On top of all this, I married a guy who had once had a small moth fly into his ear, get caught and frantic, and instead of finding its way out, worked its creepy, fluttering way right down to beat against his eardrum until a doctor could eventually get the creature out of there. Enough said. I can still look, at times, with a certain dispassionate interest and think of moths as intriguing bits of scientific wonder and visual astonishment, and then I must quickly look away again and reassure myself that there’s not something truly wrong with them. I did at least decide to write a little bit to see if, in the incident of the attack on my husband’s ear, I could imagine the experience from the moth’s point of view.digital painting from a photo


I crawled the narrow halls in

Darkness ever deepening,

Thinking I might find some clear way through

But too tightly fitted in, too close,

No chance of going back or backing out,

No scent I could recognize to bring me

Back to the distant shore,

No vision, not a speck of spectral light to give

A guide around those curves crepuscular, those turns

Winding ever more toward claustrophobia, to where

The heat was growing more intense, the sound

Of a pulsing drum seeming to speak of waves, making

Me dream the ocean lay ahead—but behind me, in

The now impenetrable night, some Thing, a dragon

It seemed to me, began to drown the liquid lure

Of the drumbeat ahead with its own more frightful,

Louder noise, and then to scrabble wildly at me

With its terrifying claws, at which it seemed

The labyrinth must finally swallow me and

Draw me down into its fatal end—but then—

In a turn of events that was quite shockingly detached

From any turns my path had made

Thus far, the whole puzzling place tipped

Over on its side—there I lay, too fixed

In the halls’ constricting ways to turn and follow or

To roll, and the sea broke forth on me at last, a rush

Of saline waves tearing upon me, heaving me out

Of where I’d wedged, and in a cataract, sent me

Blasting right back through all the sightless turns

Of that preternatural dark, shot me with my sodden

Useless wings back into blazing day where I

Could lie, quivering faintly in my long-lost world,

Deciding whether it was time to die or time

To spread my fragile wings and see

If there was any life left in them.

A Touch of Blue


photoJoy has a funny way of residing in our hearts: it’s never completely untouched by sorrow or the knowledge of trials and struggles. It requires a measure of trouble, in fact, for joy to exist. How else can we begin to know and appreciate the depth and breadth of true joy?

I was reminded of this today by one of my little hummingbird friends. They are frequently identified, these tiny flying powerhouses, as being most strongly attracted to red flora, to bright red and orange and sometimes yellow flowers. But they’re not that exclusive, really. They are aggressive and territorial and mercurial, all colors we tend to happily equate with so-called ‘hot’ colors, of course, but it hardly proves that red flowers are actually the best available attractants for hummingbirds.photo

The hummingbirds that hang around my back patio have other ideas. Not least of all, that their pleasure, and their urge to imbibe a grand zing of energy-booster, can come from what is presently their very favorite treat back there: the blue-blooming sage. It’s a hot color too, that it is; the blossoms on the lovely Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ practically scream for attention from amid the bold lime-green foliage of the plant, so nobody with a modicum of visual acuity, hummingbird or human or otherwise, is going to buzz by without giving it a good, longing look of admiration.

With what do we credit the boldest of blues? ‘Cool’, we call them. But just like the wildest, hottest of reds and yellows and oranges, intense blues are attention grabbers. They grip us by the heart just as easily as any other high-hued beauties. But the existence of both is necessary for us to understand the differences between them, and the power each has. Is ‘cool’ the metaphor for melancholy and The Blues a name for sorrow? Perhaps. Are red and those other ‘hot’ colors present in warming flames, in sunlight, in the brilliance of joy? Possibly.

Do all of them enrich our lives? Absolutely. Ask a hummingbird.photo