Select Page

A Detroit Hum Ending With Bones

Glass above my bed vibrates from the bass

pouring out of twelve inch speakers,

and I almost don’t mind being jolted awake

because I know this song. It’s not a favorite song

but I know it. Sometimes that’s plenty.

Sometimes I need more

rattle from the cabinet, a thrumming

lawnmower out there, the sound

of my twin sister snoring in the next room.

And when that’s not enough

I might take off my shirt,

press my back against a refrigerator—

one of those beige monsters

you can feel working for its hum. A humming

bird draws nectar in my thoughts, wings

beating eighty-something times per second

but it’s nowhere near here. Been a few summers

since I’ve stopped listening for bees.

A study says that cell phones near hives

confuse honeybee signals, their natural technology

too outmoded for a message from my dad

vibrating in my pocket to not make a drone

go haywire and spiral into the grass.

                                                      Is that enough?

Then what about your Chrysler that idles

so hard it tickles you from thigh

to earlobe? There’s always a hymn

waiting for ears. A Tibetan singing bowl

looking for an audience. A vibraphone

that begs to collide over and over

with the yarn-tipped mallets you hold.

And even when you were young and smirking

and the clerk was definitely afraid of you,

the tremble of his hand made your change jingle,

a little tune made of fear, just for you. Remember

the plastic kazoos buzzing in our mouths

at the spring chorale presentation?

                                                    I still remember

Elementary science, Mrs. Reese telling us to read

the whole sentence before trying to fill its blanks.

We learned to say umm

as a placeholder for answers, as in: “Hearing,

the only sense that is completely mechanical,

occurs when sound travels the    umm   ,

vibrates your eardrum, and is amplified

by the    umm   , a group of tiny bones.

Originally published in Michigan Quarterly Review