Hum, Hum

by Mary Oliver

1.
One summer afternoon I heard
a looming, mysterious hum
high in the air; then came something

like a small planet flying past –
something

not at all interested in me but on its own
way somewhere, all anointed with excitement:
bees, swarming,

not to be held back.

Nothing could hold them back.

2.
Gannets diving.
Black snake wrapped in a tree, our eyes
meeting.

The grass singing
as it sipped up the summer rain.
The owl in the darkness, that good darkness
under the stars.

The child that was myself, that kept running away
to the also running creek,
to colt’s foot and trilliams,
to the effortless prattle of the birds.

3. SAID THE MOTHER
You are going to grow up
and in order for that to happen
I am going to have to grow old
and then I will die, and the blame
will be yours.

4. OF THE FATHER
He wanted a body
so he took mine.
Some wounds never vanish.

Yet little by little
I learned to love my life.

Though sometimes I had to run hard –
especially from melancholy –

not to be held back.

5.
I think there ought to be
a little music here:
hum, hum.

6.
The resurrection of the morning.
The mystery of the night.
The hummingbird’s wings.
The excitement of thunder.
The rainbow in the waterfall.
Wild mustard, that rough blaze of the fields.

The mockingbird, replaying the songs of his
neighbors.
The bluebird with its unambitious warble
simple yet sufficient.

The shining fish. The beak of the crow.
The new colt who came to me and leaned
against the fence
that I might put my hands upon his warm body
and know no fear.

Also the words of poets
a hundred or hundreds of years dead — 
their words that would not be held back.

7.
Oh the house of denial has thick walls
and very small windows
and whoever lives there, little by little,
will turn to stone.

In those years I did everything I could do
and I did it in the dark –
I mean, without understanding.

I ran away.
I ran away again.
Then, again, I ran away.

They were awfully little, those bees,
and maybe frightened,
yet unstoppably they flew on, somewhere,
to live their life.

Hum, hum, hum.


Whenever I read about bees, I think of my little sister Kat, who was so obsessed with becoming the best beekeeper ever that she almost forgot to watch TV for a whole year.

Until the queen died. And eventually, the rest of her two bee hives. And then, eventually, her passion too.

Yesterday, one of our PMs told me she would be leaving Amal for a job she didn’t want because everyone is telling her it’s the responsible thing to do.

Society suppresses us, turns us into mockingbirds, allowing our passions to slip away as we simply replay the songs of others.

Or, is it more fair to say that we suppress ourselves? Allowing the voices and the questions and the doubt to drown out our own song. Our own hum.

Because otherwise, society sees us as running away, as wasting a life. And perhaps we see it that way too. But maybe what matters more than being labelled as a runaway is what we’re running away from. What we are “free from” and what we are “free for.”

Because perhaps running away is how we run towards ourselves. Although we won’t (initially) know what we are running towards. But will just be in the dark, doing everything, without understanding.

Do the bees know where they are going though? When they find the most fragrant lily, the brightest field, the tallest redwood, did they know it would be there? And when they eventually run away from that, do they know there will be something better?

Are they not, indeed, frightened?

Yet unstoppably they fly on, somewhere,
To live their life.