To see something in a new light

Call it by its proper name
Know its substance and particulars
Plants matter
Names matter
Spell my name right
Joan, not Jean, June, Joanne
And not Joan d’Arc
Say my name right
Know my name
In all matters
Note the curvature of the peach
Slightly asymmetric cheeks
Perfectly named
Freestone: Red Top, Elegant Lady
Clingstone: Santa Rosa, Red Beauty
Perfectly named, as a matter of fact
As the Walking Stick, Praying Mantis
Or Morning Glory, Zinnia, Cosmos
Hold a bouquet of them
Spread them across a table
Press them between pages
Of a book that matters
Examine their essentials
Imagine the savor of their nectars
Like the hummingbird 
Who might have tasted
The juice of the nasturtium
Instead she saw her self reflected
In the window pane and now lies
Sideways eyes closed
Thin tongue extended 
Reaching from a beak itself
Elongated threadlike extrusion

Name it: filament 
And she: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Born in a nest of spider silk and plant down

Faultless, I defy nature
By touching the crumbled hummingbird,
Let its lifeless weight sway
For a mere moment to hang
In air unlike ever in its life—
A singular dart in lightness
Or a mid-air hang on fierce wings—
To bring it into my palm to lay its slight weight to rest:
The least to offer it.
I desecrate its plumage by my probe and tug
My bony fingers spread its transparent wing parts
To form a half-moon span:
A declarative of beauty, I relish its examination.
Twisting and turning its limp whole,
With paired thumbs to index
I pinch the wings wide open.
Such a complexity of feathers run, tilt, then fan—
Folding like origami, wing parts perfectly slide against
And into each other to align like a mechanism
Of fine watch innards,
A filigree engineered to propel and hover.
An articulation of framed light,
Formed for speed and endurance.
A kaleidoscope of feather
I can barely take my eyes away from.
Its black eyes stare back, glistening.

She said his eyes were the last she wanted to look into.
When he held her death with his eyes,
Is this what it felt like? To hold the passing
Of a warm featherweight of pristine,
A spectacle of repose:
An afternoon’s unexpected aftermath.


Joan Hofmann serves on Executive Boards of Riverwood Poetry and Connecticut Poetry Society and is Poet Laureate of Canton, Connecticut. Her poems are/will be published in various journals/anthologies, including Rumble Fish QuarterlyJuniperBird’s ThumbSpaces, and Freshwater, and in two chapbooks: Coming Back (2014) and Alive (2017).

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