Even when quiet, her long beak like a snake’s
tongue, almost quivering, she blazes.
Day so throbs her single passion. Now
the tiger-lily takes her, next
the shaking umbels of the phlox.
Aggressive, sure, she mines the fragrant corridors,
and drives her twin, her neighbour off,
focused, aflame.
While I
who try each day to learn again
to damp my tame opinions down
or wait to learn what neighbours know,
am never sure.
If in the red shags of the day
(as if burrowing into the bergamot)
I feel their presence like a cat’s,
my sharp-nosed face
may seem a kind of angry mask.
What do I know?
You smile. I almost hear you say:
“She does, she does exaggerate!”

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Hummingbird”?

“Hummingbird” was inspired by the activity of the little female hummingbird I watch every summer working away in my flower bed. She is so fierce, so intense, so focused. But this poem is written out of an awareness of how I seem to myself, and how I think I seem to my friends. The style of this poem is personal, as if the poet is aware that she is writing to be read/heard by someone she imagines speaking the last line.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Hummingbird”?

I do not find it useful to talk about “technique” in a poem; I am more comfortable with the word “style”—e.g. is this poem written in a relaxed conversational style, or in a meditative and very personal style, or in a joking style, or in a musical or in a chanting style, etc.

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