Visions and Disappearances

hummingbird-at-feeder

Visions and Disappearances

My mother fainted
almost at will, slumped
dead to the floor by the kitchen sink,

in her beauty shop,
on the hall carpet, and even
at church, blaming it then on the whorling,

cloyed smell of gardenias.
But never alone or driving the car,
or bathing in a tub of water where she might

drown. She was, if nothing,
a dependable fall. Mexicans, migrant
and shiftless, stole vegetables from her freezer

while she shopped
in town. Negroes ruined the Burger King
with their Philistine appetites, and once she wrestled

the devil Himself in the form
of an old black man outside the hospital
where my sister-in-law strained to force the head

of her first grandchild into
the world. Mom won that match
through prayer, just like she saved Mr. Franklin’s life

when a voice announced
his tractor rolled on him in a peanut field
near her house. And my dear pig-farming aunt and uncle

down the road she hated
with righteous passion for pride,
stinginess, and laying with other men—that abomination

reserved for my uncle, who,
of course, before going to his reward
tried to kill her secretly by tying a grocery bag

around the exhaust
of her loyal Chevy Lumina. When she was dying—
her pancreas destroyed like a quilt shredded by mice—

we sat in the dark
of not-yet morning on her back porch,
drinking coffee in silence until she said, “Well,

one thing
I know for sure—your aunt and uncle
are burning in Hell right now.” Then straight

away sipped the hot
brew, blew cigarette smoke
into the brightening air, and watched green hummingbirds

sup from the feeder,
its contents as red and soothing
as water some unseen miracle suddenly turned to wine.

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