Cibola 86

This entry is part 85 of 119 in the series Cibola


The Friar’s Camp: Song Contest (conclusion)

7. Simón Zopeloxochitl de Texcoco

The hummingbird of day has yielded
to the hummingbird of night.

With a single pair of feathers on his head
he flies on wings of mica
& finds his way with eyes
of yellow quartz.

Unlike his daytime cousin
he doesn’t do battle:
summer nights are short.
Flowers uncurl after sunset just for him.
Pry open the tight
bud of his thorax,
searching out the heart to eat for courage,
& you won’t find
anything that beats:
a maze of dry husks filled with moonlight.
His powdered wings are a recipe for madness.

Listen, my comrades,
the hummingbird’s day is done.
Let us learn to fly by night
& feed on dreams.


The tutelary deity of the Aztecs was Huitzilopochtli, “Left-foot-like-a-Hummingbird.” He was a war/sacrifice/sanguinary nourishment god worshipped throughout the Valley of Mexico. In some parts of highland Mexico and Central America, the hearts of hummingbirds are still fed to boys to give them courage.

“Hummingbird of night” refers, of course, to the sphinx moth.

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