Hummingbird Burial

We find it too late. Its beak,
a delicate sword, stuck
in our patio screen. It should be
buzzing, vibrating. Searching
for the sweetest sip
inside every flower.
But the busy wings
are silent. Stilled.

We are busy too. Home
for only a few moments
between errands. “She’s dead?”
My daughter’s voice betrays
that she knows the answer.

Outstretched,
in a corpus of Christ
pose, the hummingbird
is beautiful. And terrible.

“We should bury her,”
comes the tender-hearted
voice of my girl. “Oh—we need
to pick up your brother. Get you
to class. There’s nothing
for dinner. I need to stop
at the store.”

She’s silent. “We can
put it under a tree. Cover it
with leaves. We have to go.”
She shrugs. Looks away.

I walk to the other side
of the screen. To free
the bird, and us. While its chest
shines black, like a crow,
its back is green. Iridescent.
A gentle tug, and it’s cupped
in my palm.

She’s light
as a penny.
And sacred.
Her feathers glow
onyx and emerald
beneath Florida’s
scorching sun.
I meet my daughter’s eyes.
“You know where the spade is?”

She returns from the garage
in an instant. “You pick
the tree.”

I follow her
to the magnolia.
We rest the still-shining
hummingbird
inside our freshly dug hole.
Cover her with earth.
Go on with our day.
Months later, I’ll realize
it’s the most important thing
we did that summer.

 

Photo Credit: lovecatz Flickr via Compfight cc

Paula R. Hilton

Paula R. Hilton is a novelist who explores the ways deeply flawed people can still be forces of good in the world. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA from the University of New Orleans. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion website, and NPR’s This I Believe, as well as in a number of literary journals, including The Tulane Review, Kalliope, and Ellipsis. Hilton’s debut novel, Little Miss Chaos, received the Kirkus star for books of exceptional merit. The novel was also a short-listed finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition and selected as a 2016 Best Indie Teen Read by Kirkus. She lives in Florida with her husband, son, and daughter and is working on Daphne and the Delirious Girls, her second book for young adults.

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