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Delicate as a Hummingbird’s Heart
By Noah Davis
This past Saturday, the fire burning on the north side of the river jumped a ridge and lit another hillside of drought-stricken timber, sending a plume so high that the air turned red with the seared skin of Douglas fir and larch.
At 5:30 that evening, in the diner booth across from my father and me, a young man and woman, both with shiny, smooth cheeks, sat drinking their waters in small swallows. He wore a collared, white button down with jeans and scrubbed cowboy boots. Her skirt was blue, like glacial streams, and her straight hair was the color of stacked wheat shafts when the sunlight isn’t choked with smoke. His bangs were still wet from the shower, comb marks straight as irrigation ditches. She ran her hands over her knees. He thumbed the crease of his collar. She had to lean in every time he spoke.
Years ago, I’d have thought this was a quiet, brave thing, here in our burning world: two people making themselves lovely for each other. But now having realized that the world has ended so many times before, this young couple’s effort became that much more vulnerable. Something as delicate as a hummingbird’s heart.
In the last week, a hundred million trees had perished before the girl leaned close to her mirror and blinked on mascara. In the last month, thirty skies had been choked to gray before the boy raised his hand to knock on her front door.
Noah Davis’ poetry collection Of This River was selected for the 2019 Wheelbarrow Book Prize from Michigan State University’s Center for Poetry, and his poems and prose have appeared in The Sun, Southern Humanities Review, Best New Poets, Orion, The Year’s Best Sports Writing, and River Teeth among others.
Davis earned an MFA from Indiana University and now lives with his wife, Nikea, in Missoula, Montana.
Originally posted on River Teeth April 4, 2022
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