Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Hummingbird Heading Out to Sea


Does the hummingbird know
the vastness of the Gulf of Mexico
when land is lost from sight?

Oil rigs and shrimping boats—
fast-blurred memories, random ghosts afloat
where sky and sea seem one.

Is there any inkling
of monsters below that other ceiling
birds can scarce imagine?

Tiny feathered jewel,
leagues from any flower’s nectar fuel,
how do you know the way?

Above those trackless seas,
in doldrum times of windless apogee,
one heart of pebble’s size

pounds alone against the gulf,
pounds alone against the world.

One of the most amazing bird migrations is that of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. On its southbound journey from eastern North America to its wintering grounds in Central and South America, it flies up to 500 miles nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico.

Update: This post was included in I and the Bird #119 hosted at Somewhere in NJ.


  1. Great stuff, James! As it happens, I am just putting the finishing touches on a blog post about the need for more poems just like this. Nice synchonicity.

  2. amazing to think of these journeys…

  3. Quite lovely verse. I did not know that some hummingbirds flew that far without pause. Tis an amazing thing.

    And here my biggest bird question was ‘where do they go when they aren’t at the feeder?’

    • Thanks, Mark. I often wonder that too. We don’t get many Ruby-throated hummers, mostly it’s their Black-chinned cousins around here. When they aren’t at the feeders they’re usually in a nearby tree guarding the feeders from other hummers.

  4. Very nice, James! I like the way you structure this as a series of questions rather than as a series of certainties.

  5. Such a lovely tribute to these most amazing tiny creatures..
    (I am a hummingbird “fanatic” who feeds them year-round and records the different varieties seen in my yard. We live in a migration route, so get lots of different ones and our area is also a “nursery” area, so wee get lots of babies!)

    • I’m guessing you live somewhere in the southwest. Around here, I mostly just see Black-chinned and Ruby-throated. Mosty Black-chinned in the yard.

  6. Nicely done. That rhyme scheme is so subversive I didn’t even notice it until I listened to your reading, but it lifts in the background.
    The migrations of hummingbirds and butterflies over such distances is an amazement.

    • Barbara, thanks for listening to it. I always wonder of anyone does, but I’m getting more and more interested in including readings since it’s so easy to do.

      Thanks for the comment about the rhyme scheme. I don’t write a lot of rhyming poems, but I do like writing in rhyme and meter.

  7. What an amazing feat for such a fragile creature. You captured the beauty and immensity of their annual voyage following the tendrils of space and time so aptly. This poem ranks up there near the top.

    • Thanks, Donald. Bird migration has always fascinated me. It seems impossible, and for many birds it is. It’s the most dangerous thing they do.

  8. in doldrum times of windless apogee..nice line.. a
    pebbled jewell’d poem!

  9. Tiny feathered jewel,
    leagues from any flowers nectar fuel,


  10. This is so beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I love the wondering tone you’ve used and your reading is superb.

  11. Quite excellent, lyrically beautiful… the opening stanza grabs and lifts one — and the rest of the piece carries one along on a wonderful ride. I am a major proponent of spoken word recordings and love to hear a poem read by the poet — so splendidly revealing. Fine work!

    I will share one of my multimedia poems with you here: Nocturne

    • Thanks, Rob. I’m new to doing the recording part, but I’ve been enjoying it. Thanks for your comment.

      I really liked “Nocturne.” It was quite stunning.

  12. I like this James….it is all about the questions…not the answers..thanks for sharing this

  13. Wow! It is amazing about the migration of birds. I love this!


  14. If we could only see what they do. And you are quite welcome.


  15. Sweet and melancholy at the same time, James. I feel awe and pity at the same time for poor lonely little hummer, toughing it out all alone over the vast waters. The imagery is great – it really transports the reader. I’m thinking about participating in the next read write poem GYPO. Trying to broaden my writing horizons.

    • Heather, thanks. I hope you do participate. I’ve been doing it for about a year now and it’s been a lot of fun.

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