In Praise of a Hummingbird’s Tongue

So long it coils around their small skulls. A forked miracle that traps nectar – collects it in the beak and forces it to the back of the throat. That’s where the hum begins. Flicks in and out and again. Something about surface tension: how a dead hummingbird’s tongue in nectar will drink repeatedly. A flock of live hummingbirds is a bouquet of white bellies, humming. Something about how hard it is to stay still, be an absence of sound. I name each bird as they float at my feeder. A glittering of green, the way they fan their tail feathers. The way they divebomb each other through the notes of their body’s hum. So small a marvel. But back to the tongue, back of the throat. Anything but the absence of miracle.


More from our “In Praise Of” Series:

My VIDA T-shirt in Bright Blue, Julie Halebsky
Mixtapes, Dilruba Ahmed
Fences, Broken, Anthony Cody
The Variable Speed of Time, Ösel Jessica Plante
The Vase, Maw Shein Win
Scissors, Conor Bracken
Carnival Ride Seats, Catherine Pierce

Susan Nguyen

Susan Nguyen hails from Virginia but currently lives and writes in Arizona. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Arizona State University, where she won the Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Prize and fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. In 2018, PBS NewsHour named her one of "three women poets to watch." Her work appears in diagram, Tin House, and elsewhere. She writes a lot about identity, the body, and the Vietnamese diaspora and also likes to make zines. Her debut collection, Dear Diaspora, won the 2020 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in September 2021. Visit her at

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