Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Hummingbird on Virgil

by Ron Burch

I saw a hummingbird on Virgil, swooping quickly across the crowded intersection, through the groups of children in their school uniforms. A tiny green thing with a ruby throat, the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. But she flapped oddly, at an angle, her right wing bent, perhaps broken or sprained. She erratically quivered around the cars, nearly getting hit by a speeding truck, her confusion clear by the way she could not leave the intersection. She called out to me.

What’re you doing? she asked.

Nothing, I replied.

You want to have a good time?

I always want to have a good time.

She flew too close to the local bus and bounced off the mirror.

You okay? I asked.

I’ve had better times but I’m looking for nectar, she said. Nectar of the gods.

Where do you find that? I asked, keeping my eye on the light. Soon it would change.

Around, she said, around. I do like to drink it down.

That’s cool, I replied.

Yeah, I got a nest, she said. A nest full of babies who need feeding. She flitted to the left and then up to avoid the traffic.

I read the other day that hummingbirds nest underneath hawks for protection. I couldn’t remember why though.

I wanted to catch her. I wanted her to fly to my car so I could have her sit on my hand. So I could look at her wing and take her in to fix it.

But she kept a cautious distance.

Is your wing okay? I asked.

Ah darling, she said, it’s been worse. It’s been better. It’s been good. It’s been bad. But it’s been worse.

I got distracted by the traffic light. The left turn signal turned green and the lane next to me began to crawl to their destinations.

Her wings fluttered so fast like diamonds in the sky. She was so agile, so swift as if she tried to be caught, it would never happen. Her slightly curved beak was seductively tipped and angled almost to a constant struggle.

The light changed. My line turned green, turned go.

Come with me, I said.

What? she asked, whipping too far away.

Behind me the cars honked. They could only see one thing: they didn’t want to miss this light.

Come with me, I said, I’ll get your wing fixed.

Ah, darling, she replied, you could never catch me, and then she flew off away from me.

I pressed the accelerator and followed after her frenetic flight, but the traffic in front of me slowed, and I watched her disappear, her green and red wings, a tremble in the distance, a fire in the sky as she flew away, leaving me behind in the snarl of morning traffic.