The Hummingbird and Rembrandt’s Saul
A favour pulls me from my pondering of Saul,
of Samuel’s scroll, and of the Dutchman’s tortured king
with drastic eye, precarious crown perched on a bloated,
bandaged mind. My task is not to find a wayward ass
but pen three dozen wily fowl of varied breed
and skittishness, tight phalanxed ducks and half-grown hens
that scatter to the poison ivy thickets at
the run’s far edge. Exasperated, I retreat
back to my friend’s garage to get the freeze-dried worms
he promised would help lure the birds behind wire gates
that sometimes keep them safe from foxes, skunks, raccoons,
coyotes, other nighttime hunters hungry for
an easy meal. But as I search the package out
I hear a whir and pop and spy a hummingbird
beating between the roof and raised garage bay door.
I try to shoo it lightward with a broom and stick,
but it, exhausted, lands just out of reach atop
the squat rack farthest from the doors and browning sun.
The cats that Davey said have brought home headless squirrels
hop on the lower bars and eye the cornered bird.
Perhaps a scholar cannot help but see his studies
everywhere, or maybe they and life do mutually
illuminate, but as I try to help that bird
escape I see it beating in the turbaned skull
of desperate Saul, relentless hum, constricted space,
a tiny skeleton convulsed again, again—
the overwhelming urge to fly from terrors closing
in, a giant taunting him and Samuel’s stern rebuke,
an evil spirit circling his soul, and here
within his very court a shadowed handsome boy
whose songs not long ago could shepherd him to light
but who now plucks a moan with each silk garrote string.
Steven Knepper teaches in the Department of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies at Virginia Military Institute. His poems have appeared in SLANT, The Rappahannock Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Pennsylvania English, Floyd County Moonshine, and other journals.
The Ekphrastic Review
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