Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Hummingbird

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Appleton’s Ellen Taylor is a poet and a professor at the University of Maine, Augusta. This week she offers two poems in different moods about birds — one wild and the other domestic.

Hummingbird by Ellen M. Taylor

A hummingbird’s heart
beats 250 times per minute
when resting
and 1200 times while feeding.
A surprise can trigger
cardiac arrest,
as his tiny heart
cannot withstand
further stress.
I mourn
the ruby-throated juvenile
anxiously feeding in the phlox
this still September morning.
His whirring startled me
while I knelt to deadhead pansies —
I swatted at the sound,
and he fell.


How does she do it, create such perfect
spheres within her feathered body? Every
twenty-four hours she leaves us, still warm,
an umber shell, inside it a yolk, ochre
and richer than butter, nested in white clear
as rainwater. She coos and clucks with content.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2009 by Ellen M. Taylor. Reprinted from Floating, Moon Pie Press, 2009, by permission of Ellen M. Taylor. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.