The ruby-throated hummingbird
Tiny birds hum and suck and swallow,
full days drinking nectar, filling their strength with syrup
to travel so far, so distant, to warm winter air.
Nets spread to welcome the gentle song of wings
hold twisted bodies,
trembling in starvation to the last.
Three red downy curls plucked from each throat
are a gift of bloody rubies to the feathered serpent god –
most colourful, most rich, most precious.
Hopes rise that treasured offerings
will persuade the deity to grant sexual success
to warriors – and confer skill in battle.
Sharp beaks prick blood from genitals,
so soldiers and leaders can prove their sacrifice,
show off their courage in the world of men.
Delicate dead remains become gruesome amulets
to draw potency from the great feathered god
who banned the ransom of human life.
And when the ‘civilising hero’ burns on the pyre,
flocks of red-throated birds fly from the flames,
the humming of wings overpowering the roar of fire.
(‘The ruby-throated hummingbird’ will appear in The Spaces in Between, the debut collection from Jackie Biggs, due to be published by Pinewood Press, Swansea, autumn 2015.)
A former journalist, Jackie Biggs has been writing poetry for three years. She has had her work published on websites and in magazines and anthologies, including the The Lampeter Review, Innovate arts magazine, Poetry24, I am not a silent poet and the Haiku Journal . She has been Honno’s Poet of the Month. She performs poetry at live events all over west Wales, where she lives. Some of her work appears on her blog: http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk