• Shawn McNulty-Kowal

Condition of a Hummingbird

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

In a glass vase,

I melt white table sugar in water,

And I wait.


I read Italo Calvino.

I want to hold him, oh.

I want to explain to him how,

I’ve been waiting for him, I‒

Just didn’t know for how long.


Anna’s Hummingbirds come by,

Or maybe only one, repeatedly.

Her thread of a tongue,

That plunges into the sugar water,

Is as long as her body.

Her tongue that acts like velcro.


Italo wrote that the end of the world,

Exists in an observatory.

From my window,

I see the Griffith Observatory.

I don’t see the end of the world.

I see flash photography amidst an orange sky.


California skies have been changing with wildfires‒

A dark orange like a dead red cedar.

Waking up to this, San Franciscans,

Hadn’t realized the sun had risen at all,

Stationed behind curtains of creamsicle wool clouds.

The fog, a cushion for smoke to rest.

Yes‒

Reclining with a cigar in hand,

A cocktail to calm the nerves.


The AQI reads Unhealthy and,

We’ll bemoan the fog tomorrow.

Human condition.


From behind a closed window,

I watch as Anna’s Hummingbird,

Comes to visit her red glass vase.

As the waterline recedes, I supervise each visit.

The vase needs refilling.

She pokes her straw deep down for more sugar water,

Flails her wings for balance as she slips back.

Her leathered lace sandals grip the rim of the vase.


But I don’t add more sugar water,

I wait‒ Until she falls,

I have no choice but to open my window,

To save her.

Our worlds before us.

Written by Shawn McNulty-Kowal



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