Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

The black-chinned hummer buzzes my flowered shirt,
bringing to mind the letter H, its history of an inferior life among

letters, and a Phoenician origin signifying fence.

An aspirate dependent upon others, or a line strung between posts,

even whispered, H does not contain itself.
Disconsolate or annoyed, the bird moves on.

Do names depend upon the power of symbols, or do they power the symbols?

In the 6th century A.D., Priscian disparaged H, saying it existed only to accompany.

Clouds shade the way.
The black-chin extends its grooved tongue at a rate of 15 licks per second.

Alone, the H’s voice is barely audible.

Through the trees, across the crushed rock driveway and beyond the barbed wire

and chain link, I hear deadfall snapping under hooves.
At rest, its heart beats an average of 480 beats per minute.

Modern Greek denies its existence.

Say khet, say honor and where. Say hinge, sigh and horse. Say depth.


Originally published in Prime Number Magazine, one of my favorite online literary journals, in 2013:


89 thoughts on “Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

  1. All the layers in this poem, so beautifully interlaced! You triggered a memory of clouds piling up and turning from pearly white to dark purple before thunderstorms on hot summer San Antonio afternoons..

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love all three of your 3 odes to letters, but this one is so rich with images and information, I think it’s my favorite. H has a special place in my heart; too many favorite words and creatures to number (and also, my middle name, Hesper, starts with it).

    I also really enjoyed reading the Q&A at the end of the piece in Prime Number. It’s easy for me to perceive (and get hung up on) the history and meaning of Chinese ideograms but like everyone else, I take the Latin alphabet for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H is particularly interesting, in that its sound in English words varies so much, or disappears entirely. I’m pleased you like the three poems in Prime Number. They’re some of my personal favorites and are set, tho no one would know, on my rural property, and feature favorites of mine – hummingbirds, Cantinflas the burro, screech owls – that appear elsewhere in my writing. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow Robert…Amazing piece. I love it. : )
    P.S. Thanks for all of your attention to my blog. I really appreciate it!


  4. Pingback: Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird | Josie's Kaleidoscope

      • I’ve already staked out “Dodo” for myself, so you’ll have to look elsewhere.

        I am deeply enamored of this poem, Robert. Its language ebbs and flows, flutters and buzzes, in a way that resonates both with my inner ear and the subject matter. It also resonates with my sense of being the metaphorical “AC unit” that I am—peripheral, in the shadows, yet if not necessary then at least an enhancement of the main subject or action. Additionally but significantly, its story of H is particularly meaningful to me since my spasmodic dysphonia works overtime when I try to say words and phrases that begin with soft aspirates like vowels, including the pretenders like H and W. Percussive sounds are easier to make, but frequently less beautiful and definitely not practical without the vowels!

        Another aspect of this piece that has my affections is its tidy but lyrical way of drawing together several topics that might seem tenuously-related to others, as though you have a fine camera or lens of some sort that you’re gradually adjusting in front of my mind’s eye to show me the relationships. I love that sort of thing.

        Thanks for this!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • In these pieces I hope to, in some small way, emulate the way my mind darts around from subject to subject. It’s liberating to allow myself that freedom. And thank you for your comments, Kathryn. I will relinquish “Dodo” to you.


  5. So beautiful.
    I’m quite taken with the letter H myself, but then it is the beginning of who I am so I am biased. Perhaps the line strung between two posts is representative of my own need to be joined with others in this dance of life. Standing alone I am silent. With others, I’m gregarious, alive, & full of myself. But even in my life, I’ve tried changing my signature only to find there’s truly only one way to write it, for the H is solid, determined to be written just as it is with no real flash or flare. Just H. The line between two posts, keeping them from toppling into each other or falling apart.
    Thank you for your interest in my little blog. It’s helped me discover your poetry, which is beautiful! Have a richly blessed day!

    Liked by 2 people

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