Beautiful Noise

The Birth of Hummingbird

(A statue of Coatlicue, mother of Huitzilopochtli, stands in the Mexican National Museum. The altar stone depicting his dismembered sister was recently unearthed in Mexico City.)

...the seed for me, a dustball of feathers.

My mother, poor peasant woman, found me in dirt
when she dusted a temple.

Chocolate-eyed, snake-brained woman, she saved me,
flinging out doors the other debris,
things that the mice had gathered.

Parting her skirt, she saved me inside.

Warm there my mind lay,
fermenting, dividing, swelling to growth.

Her sons were disturbed; my sister distressed.

I grew like a squash in that much-planted belly.

Four hundred brothers (cultured barbarians stole my story
for their Gugumatz),

Four hundred brothers (quads, even quintuplets–
littered in clusters, like as grapes),

Four hundred brothers (my privacy rankling while I
slept in solitude, there in the heart of her),

Four hundred brothers, joined with their sister–
dark laughing daughter of earth,
Mistress of Beasts–
menaced their mother.

And then, when her belly groaned and creaked,
a basket too full,
straining the tumpline,
attacked her with knives,
attacked her with swords,

Joined in the slaughter by my sister's s minions:
Red killer bats,
Monkeys foam-mouthed with madness,
Dogs with glass teeth,
Swift-flying snakes.

But I sprang from the live cave–
wet red and slick;

I raised my strong hands
armed with a black blade,
armored in feathers,
armored in cotton,
eyes bright as glass–

Her child full-grown;

Plainly the match for an
ant-horde of brothers
and beast-loving sister.

I licked them all up with the blade then like insects–

brothers and bats,

monkeys and dogs,

sharp-feathered snakes.

My sister fled screaming, my black-toothed rage.
I stored up her fate;
I turned to my mother.

I'd slaughtered four hundred–
and more, with the beasts–

But my mother was slain in the fray.

Where she fell, blood ran from split loins.

Blood ran in two streams from the stump
that a brother had made of her neck–
a death-blow delivered
while I was entangled,
untangling my feet from umbilical ropes.

While I watched contrite,
standing mournful,

The blood rose up round and swaying
tall in alternate columns,
right side and left,

And took shape and color–
not merely black,
nor even bright red,

but all native colors,
of birds and of snakes, of
jewels, ophidian scales,
gems and rare metals,
feathers like quetzals', macaws'.

And the columns were suddenly snakes

As I watched–
heartstruck and breathless,
starving and gaping,

My two eyes like needles,
one needle, feeding on visions.

The dead body rose, new-shaped and new-lived,
twin snakes for its head:

Their faces together, lip against lip,
in a hard scaly kiss on her brow;

Their eyes are her eyes,

And their chins are her lip,
sibilant, split;

The whole face bisected,
luminous now with jewels and scales.

And she sent me, sweet sister,
Lover of Coyote,
to finish our business,
make our accounting.

And I came here, sweet sister,
beating my wings,
too rapid for watching,

for counting.

I came then, to whisper to you
that no creature enchanted,

that no beast enamoured of you
can protect you or put by the arrow of love.

I came now to choose the skin I should pierce
with my cruel curved beak.

Where shall it be?

Over the eyes–here–cleaving your soul
as our mother's was cleft?

Here–into the blue-purple stripe
at the pit of your elbow?

Just in the throat's sweet hollow–here–
soft amber wax, dented with something
(a thumbprint)?

Arcing up here to sip heart's blood like nectar
from the hard breasts?

Lower still, down into–No.

Into the burning red flower, deep in the pumping calyx.

And then, in my shape as a man,
I put her in pieces,

My black blade rising and falling
in deft precise rhythm,
slicing flesh neatly,
smooth, clean-edged cuts.

I reached with a firm grip
into the blood,
snapping each limb from its socket
that gleamed with salt burning water.

I worked so, wary of snakes coiled on each limb like live bracelets;

I worked so, croaking my love like some dark bird of prey all the while.

And the great square shadow shaded my hands
from the sun as I worked.

And it leaned its split head down only to me
and went whispering mysteries into each ear–
right, and then left.


Poetry Writing Dancing Badger