Humming Words: Writing by Workshop Participants

The writing presented below is just a sampling of the work that flows from the pens and computers of Hummingwords writers. Some of our writers have chosen to present poetry on this page because poetry’s condensed language makes it short and sweet, but we never know if we’ll end up writing creative nonfiction, poetry, flash fiction, personal meditation, a continuation of a novel or memoir from outside of the group, or all of the above in any given session. It all depends on where the prompts lead us.

What do Women Want?

Jean Lyford

Why ask? I want what you want,
To be respected—to have a voice,
Time uninterrupted, a question answered,
A smile returned in understanding—
No child am I to be taken care of,
Patted on the back with a there, there.

I want time to finish what I started,
Not stop to look for other’s shoes or papers.
I want to sing and dance in the middle of the living room
Without someone asking if I’ve been drinking.
I want to be a person, not a function in somebody else’s
Guide book, unfettered by another’s scheme of things.

Yes, I want what you want
Whether you’re male or female
Should the difference matter?
Don’t we all cry sometimes,
somewhere openly or in secret?
I’m up to feeling failure or success in work I chose.
Tell me how you feel—no flowers, please.

I want to be seen as myself, not someone else’s
Dream or needs.

That One Thing

Cynthia Leslie-Bole

you wait for that one thing
suspecting you’ve lost it
though you’ve never owned it
never even glimpsed it
nor had the chance to touch it
you wait searching in your heart
as though rifling through a purse
in search of the
keys to the kingdom
you wait as cups of coffee empty
as hair bleeds out its color
as children fledge
you wait straining to hear
whispers of wanting
intimations of birthing
portents of veils lifting
you wait squinting to catch
your true self ghosting the mirror
you wait without knowing that
the act of waiting scares it away
passive expectation
critical evaluation
impatient denigration
all scare it away
if you desire it you must
welcome rather than wait for it
cajole rather than corral it
humor rather than harass it
you open to that one thing
embracing it like a lost twin
sharing champagne and crudités
celebrating the reunion
as it comes home inside of you
where it has always been
waiting just for you

Venn Diagram

Jana Rains

I do not give you me.
You think I do
when I sit with you in waiting rooms
when I lunch with you
or visit in the afternoons.
You think you have me.
You shine me like a new ring.
You show me to your friends.
I glitter on your hand
when you tilt it just so.
Oh I do give you some things.
I slip you crumbs–
the things fallen into the corners of the drawer
or found, after weeks, in pockets.
They are the things I give to strangers,
to people in the grocery line,
the parts of me I give you.
This is, of course, a heavy, hard and ugly thing–
this withholding–
A great black sin of selfishness, of pride, of fear.
Or, perhaps, simply a power I’ve earned
and keep in reserve.

Sometimes, if I’m bored or bother to consider it
I wonder what I have of you.
All the flotsam of your history, all the curios
all the meandering stories–
What of you are they?
Sometimes I look to find you hiding between the lines
And I am left to think of our vast shared life
the volleys traded
the multitude of tuna sandwiches
the army of Hallmark cards lined up
and marching through our shared holidays.

What a strange land–our long intersection–
a land of half-hearted efforts and rebuffs
a land of cruel scarcities
a land of small politeness.
Who are you–I’m almost asking.
Who are you after all these years?
Who are you–I’m almost asking
but without the necessary curiosity
to field the answer.
And so, as always, we retire to our separate corners.
Two icebergs in a long sea.

He Appeared Out of Nowhere

Mari Tischenko

He appeared out of nowhere
On that stifling, summer night
Mere blocks from the White House
A Pennsylvania Avenue poverty scene, Act One.
In the artificial light of that concrete stage,
He asked for money.
No pitiable pose, no street-smart clever sign,
No cajole.
Just one nameless, blank, black face,
One outstretched hand, one simple plea
Uttered with the dull dreariness of
A practiced humiliation.
Neither imploring nor deploring.
The hardest and easiest thing to ask a stranger.
One simple request.
She opened her sensible Velcro wallet
And handed him a dollar bill,
Crumpled and moist having ridden shotgun
On the commuter bike she used to meet friends that night
For dinner and drinks.
She, in her urban-chic sheath and gladiator sandals,
Living the self-induced Spartan city life.
With intelligent face and perfect skin
Unmistakable signs of a young life well lived,
Without want, a tuition paid in full
An army of safety nets cradling her every step.
Yet, without hesitation, she opened her handbag and her heart
And gave.
No words exchanged, no adulation from the audience
To assure her of such pure beneficence.
No proudly printed donors list or patrons gift,
No quietly righteous tax-deductible tithings.
It was the split second of whole heartedness
That haunts me to this day.
The moment that left me flat-footed and fumbling.
The opportunity for compassion in spontaneous action,
Rather than the premeditated Act Two of giving.
The cynicism of my years
The frustration of uncertainty
The poison of presumption
Came together in that one brief moment
And I yearned for the folly of my youth.



Silencio – Silencio…

Sibilant whispers echo around the walls of the cool dim-lit cathedral.

Silencio – Silencio…

Excited chatters of voracious tourists, hush to the stern exhortations.

Graciella holds tightly to the cool, ringed, elegant hand, coming from above like a bell-pull. Her wide brown eyes vacuum impressions: the echoes from the stone floor; wafts of unfamiliar perfumes mixed with ancient frankincense. She experiments with a shiny tap tap of black sandals on this floor.

SILENCI-OOO. She shrinks back and tip-toes on. Is it the voice of God?

Downstairs, in the crowded crypt, Mama sits down in a pew, pulling Graciella in beside her. Mama points to a broad, oval stone structure, rising like a petrified ark from the checkered floor. “The bones of blessed San Francisco are inside there, cara.”

Pictures flash through her head: are they like the piles of bones thrown out behind Mr Fonzo’s butcher shop? What about his monk’s clothes? Are they in there too?

Graciella’s feet swing back and forth, shiny shoes catching in a sunbeam. She has to wriggle. This is such a strange place… and that voice, that raspy deep man’s voice, scares her.

Can he see me? Can he hear my thoughts?

Mama is saying her rosary, swept up into this strange world.
It feels heavy down here, the air is thick, as if underwater in a strange dream.

How is this connected to my story book at home? In those pictures San Francisco is outside on a bumpy green hill, and he is talking to the wolf, and the wild pigs. In my favourite one, his arms are outstretched, and a little wren is on one hand; she has her head cocked, listening to his silent talk.

Harsh Boxes of Mental Unrest


Who would say what…. and to whom? Pictures in the head of unsaid words. The unsaid British buttoned-up politeness, with straight jaw lines, tight stomachs, curled up toes in shiny shoes.

The ever-flowing monologue behind the mask. Politeness is everything. Formal handshake – How do you do? But the question is not meant as a question, and no answer is required, though foreigners fall for it.

Stand in the queue: don’t jump it, even if you are dying of a heart attack. You MUST be polite. “Er, excuse me, can I go first? I am having a slight problem.” (Subtext: I am about to collapse and die,
I am short of breath and fainting, BUT if you have a greater need, I will stand back.)

“What did you pay for this shiny new mansion?” I wonder, but can never ask. Just beat about the bush, wonder indirectly: I wonder, I wonder… (John Cleese does it so well).

Is it small island life? Being crowded up against others all the time? The Japanese do it too—lots of rules and regulations for every social interaction.

“Oh my, she’s SO rude. She’s become a Californian, you know. She is so outrageous; the things she comes out with. And did you see her plunging neckline at her sisters’ wedding? Most inappropriate, even though she DID wear a hat.”

The British life is one of masks, of not saying what you think, and the harsh boxes of mental unrest are imprisoning.