Can a Hummingbird Sing?

by Martha Williams

On her way to school it was Amazing Grace. Stroking Benji's thistledown ears, Willow. On holiday, Moonlight Shadow. But Anna never sang. Even now she still shrank from the echoes.
You're the first child I ever knew... you're not even... and the glare that gripped her throat.

And so her music flowed through a reedy, open-mouthed hum that sounded as if she might at any moment break into song.


Write. Said the teacher.

And so she wrote and so she won and so she faced him by the piano.

Now sing it.



I can't sing.

You can.


You must. You wrote it, you won. Now you have to sing. He waited for his silence to crush her stutter, forcing her to open her song - but even as she inhaled a bird flew in on her fear and lodged in her throat. Jackdaw to her voice, wings beating her breath aside. And so she stood, mouth and eyes agape, panic flapping through every orifice.


He leaned forward. His eyes soft. She closed her mouth and failed to meet his gaze.

Penny for them?


Penny for your thoughts?

Before she could still her wanton face, her lip widened and curled, her eyes scrunched and fat tears spilled shame down her cheeks.
She said I couldn't sing. Mrs P. She said, I'm the first child she ever knew that couldn't sing.


And I'm not even tone deaf. As if that made it worse, as if her inability had a wilful way.


He paused. He reached for her shoulder.

It's only words. He said. When you hear words, make sure you know which ones to keep, and which ones to drop. Because what use are words if they silence a voice?


His hand pressed her skin, his warmth more real than any echo. So she met his eyes and saw his belief. And knew, then, that just as some words can be banished, so others need to be sung... and as the penny dropped her soul hitched a ride on his hope and rose and rose past all her fluttering fear. Lighter than air she flew, as the bird in her throat broke free.