The National Poetry Review

Kristel Rietesel-Low

EVEN THE NECTAR HUNTERS HAVE A DARK SIDE

Hummingbirds from the other side
of the bottlebrush appear, my pregnant stomach rippling

like a well. Soon mosquito larvae wriggling
in the stagnant fountain will pierce

the surface to have another chance
to flee the next generation of dragonflies

and damselflies newly-winged, resting
on clods under a bay laurel—

unknowing grammarians, hooked feet pinching
the present-tense of drought, touching past perfect

of rain. Bottle and black flies take on the back field,
where nasturtiums, cabbageworm-eaten in the southern exposure

lure black and brown widows.
Not so different under this strange paradise,

where the red fuzz of petals drops like snow
but persists, coating the roses and fountain

in stubborn reflection. But even the nectar hunters have a dark side,
the hummingbirds chasing each other with sharp electric bursts

of territorial song against the ringing hum of suspected
killer bees. The live oaks beyond only repeat themselves in yin, to the sea,

shadows of continents on dried grass yang,
drifting and changing. Even the creeks diverted

to smooth cement culverts beget spontaneous jungle
where emerald-headed mallards and coyotes

must both drink water slowed by eddies of lobed algae like organs,
though, surrounded by roads, any one of them may not make it out

alive, the reeds below acquiescing to the current
and the heavy transfer of invasive brown snails, all that extra weight.


KRISTEL RIETESEL-LOW received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, The Maine Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Portland Review, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, three children, and Labrador retriever.

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