The Portuguese word for “hummingbird” is beija-flor—flower-kisser. In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli is the hummingbird god, the bloodthirsty god of war, requiring nourishment in the form of constant human sacrifices to ensure that the sun will rise again. In this book, Barger documents his recent itinerant years in closely observed, honest, and sometimes surreal episodes: on the filthy streets of Delhi, in a junk pile in Mexico City, at a Coney Island sideshow, in the bathroom of a Oaxaca bus. The hummingbird is a territorial, aggressive creature whose life depends upon its quest for fuel, compelling it to taste up to one thousand flowers per day. Its pulse, as it flies eight hundred kilometers across the Gulf of Mexico, can rise up to twenty-one beats per second. In these gritty poems, the furor of the hummingbird’s desire to survive and the roving spirit of the poet merge to compel a reading of life in flux that is at once breathtaking, agitated and fragile.
About the author
John Wall Barger’s work has appeared recently in CV2, The Antigonish Review, and The Malahat Review, and is forthcoming in Grain, Descant and The Best Canadian Poetry 2008. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he teaches English literature part time at Saint Mary’s University. Pain-Proof Men is his first collection of poems.
“Barger has an ear, so all pieces have that musical buzz, the rig-a-jig of craft.”