It burst in front of me like an iridescent cloud. Blooming with seraglio colors it hovered and dipped like a wayward carpet, alive with Byzantine patterns. Its tinted sinews smeared the spinning flight: magenta and green flexed in the air.
It swooped, dipped and paused in mid-flight. A doubtful sprite of velvet reflections, it traced an invisible latticework of tracks and pathways: meandering, creative, senseless. It was as if femininity’s frail nucleus was compressed like coal in an invisible hand, writhing within nameless muscles, waiting and suffering. And when the birth was over, the hand would open to release a diamond faceted with color– and the hummingbird, in a grateful blur, would fly away.
I heard the impudent buzz in my ear; taking tiny dares to hide in my shadow, to follow in my footsteps. I saw it dive into gardens of flowers, to pierce the fragrance, to shatter pockets of pollen into a gilded mist. I watched it disappear into bowers of vines and thorns, into cradles of blossoms – to emerge satiated and ready to continue on its chaotic progress.
This tiny vision has stayed with me; Nature’s whimsical compromise between insect and bird. And yet I recall another vision: one of a garish thing, engraved and metallic, heavy and debauched. It is what is now referred to as “novelty” jewelry, but what in reality is a travesty that only the misguided creativity of the Victorians could produce.
It is a necklace; made up of a single golden tier, decorated with shields seeming ready to be carved and quartered with the family crest by the jeweler’s steel quill. But instead, as part of the creation of this necklace, many delicate decapitations were committed. Affixed to each shield was a hummingbird’s head; each mounted at a different angle, so that when the lady opened the velvet case she would be struck by the light that angled across the deceased feathers.
A lady’s magazine of the time described the petite corpses “…as plump and tempting to epicurean palate as any ever served up broiled on toast.”
And when the lady held the dainty executions to her throat, bloodless and gaping, she would admire the kaleidoscope of colors that mirrored across her skin. She would love the golden beaks, the echo of life in the glass eyes – the deaths done in her honor, inconsequential, ultimately, because they were so small.
She would always treasure her frivolous horror, her captured prisms: the errant lives that now hung from her neck like silent bells.