Filling the Feeder with a Sobering Sweet

By Amy Woschek Schmidt

From the nectar I have forged, the hummingbird

is drawn to drink.

Sugar —

1.  Countries away, a man stands at the edge

     of a field with a lit match. He touches

     the flame to a leaf green as the ocean just beyond

     it. Soon, the sky will cradle thick smoke

     in its wide arms. The man will pick ash

     from each bite of beans he lifts to his mouth.

     He will doze as the dry fronds, dead

     from the sugary heart’s neglect, burn quickly

     away. There is no smell more crucial

     to him than that of cane on the verge of scorched.

2.  All night long, a knife is wielded against

     a rod. Sweat breaks out along every bit

     of skin, beading like crystals on the brow. Chopped

     fine as the gravel that forms the treacherous

     road he travels home each morning, the fibrous pulp

     oozes a sweet syrup his daughters will clamor

     to lick from his rough fingers, the sun shimmering

     on their dark, sleep-matted hair.

3.  Etched by the blades of a thousand

     thick paper bags, the tips of her fingers feel

     like the belly of a red snapper. Her long braid swings

     like a pendulum keeping time as she sways

     back and forth, shifting her weight to please her swollen

     feet. She knows this rocking well, eight babies, now

     grown, do too. Deep into a lifetime of nights, she sang a song

     that spoke of dulzura envuelto, the meaning lost somehow to this.

And the water —

1. mixed with the broken back

    story of sugar I pour into the feeder — it’s the only

    prayer I can utter. gratitude for myself

    relief for them and for all of us: redemption,


Amy Woschek Schmidt’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Florida Review, Ruminate, Camroc Press Review, and Calyx, among other journals. She has been a finalist for the Janet McCabe Poetry Prize and is the recipient of an Arrowhead Regional Arts Grant.  She homesteads in northern Minnesota, where snow is a given and sun is a gift; she lives there with her husband, daughter, and bloodhound.