Humming – deCordova series


Jaume Plensa
marble and lead

I close my eyes, grit my teeth.
The camel shifts through sands beneath

Its feet.  Is there a better way
To travel without lurch and sway?

Step, scrunch. I hum a tune,
Conjure genie from the dune.

I command thee! Help me fly
A magic carpet through the sky.

Sailing, soaring, smooth and free.
Ouch! The camel’s flea bit me.

* * *

Welcome to my fifth – and final – post inspired by artwork at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA.  What a joy it has been to have these incredible works jumpstart my writing brain!

You may recognize Jaume Plensa as the artist behind The Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park or Echo in New York’s Madison Square Park.  The deCordova recently acquired this marble piece entitled Humming, an elongated female head in solitary meditation.

I was envious of this calm, slightly exotic woman, so cool and collected on a hot July day.  Our contemplative peace was suddenly shattered by the piercing shrieks of a squirming toddler, lugged across the lawn by his beleaguered mother and stuffed unceremoniously back into the stroller from which he had escaped.  In my poem the lines blurred – did the camel represent his stroller?  Was the  child the dreamer, or the flea?  Nonetheless, I silently wished his mother the sense of serenity reflected on the sculpture’s face.

I felt Humming would be a nice companion to Listening Stone, my first post in the series.  Male or female, eyes open or shut, rough stone or polished granite, who knows what we will hear when we truly listen?


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at or Twitter @catballoumealey
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39 Responses to Humming – deCordova series

  1. Really, Cathy, the poems these sculptures inspired in you are inspiring in themselves. Amazing and beautiful!

  2. I am in awe. I love the sculpture. It is so serene. Your poem is remarkable — and I love that the calm is disturbed by a flea. Love your anologies. You truly have a gift.

  3. Sue Wang says:

    Meditation and serenity -love. Can’t help feeling disturbed by the horizontal line going across the face and neck, as if the concentration is sliced. Oh to fly away on a magic carpet and being bitten by a flea…a juxtaposition of senses. Thank you for this evocative post!

  4. Awesome as always. This was a great series, Cathy.

  5. Hannah Holt says:

    Lovely sculpture and poem.

  6. izatrapani1 says:

    I love the imagery in your poem! And the last line is such fun. Cathy, you have done a marvelous job with this series. I hate to see it end- but I am sure you’ll come up with something new and imaginative!

  7. laurimeyers says:

    Lovely, well until the flea bite I suppose :). I just worked on an adult poem with my crit group, and I am a believer now that any kind of poetry practice will strengthen a writer’s ability to write for children.

    • Exactly Lauri! Writing these poems for a broader audience has been liberating. I felt at ease to play with language and imagery that I would not use in works for children. It has made my picture book writing flow more easily, and – I hope – be stronger! Thank you for adding that.

  8. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    These are always inspiring.

  9. Susan Brody says:

    Cathy, this has been such a lovely series! I love how you use the sculptures to let your mind wander far afield. Please find another sculpture museum soon!!

  10. jama says:

    Have loved all the poems in this series. Isn’t Plensa the sculptor who also did the big alphabet man, “Nomade?” Your poem is both evocative and thought-provoking. The flea was quite a surprise :).

  11. laurasalas says:

    I love this poem and its inspiration, Cathy! Especially:

    Is there a better way
    To travel without lurch and sway?

  12. I would like to install that sculpture smack dab in the middle of my yard, please. Then I would stare at it all day long. I can see why this one would inspire a poem, Cathy — and I was humming along all serene until that darn flea showed up! Ha! Love the little surprise interruption of the reverie. I’m sorry to see this series end.

  13. Joyce Ray says:

    Thanks, Cathy! I wonder what will inspire you next. You’ve encouraged us all to respond to art with words and create ekphrastic poetry. I love the idea of one artist speaking to another.

    • Cathy Ballou Mealey says:

      That’s a beautiful idea Joyce and a strong reason why I am so attracted to picture books – a marriage of words and art!

  14. Hi Cathy-
    This is just lovely. I love the enjambment between the first and second couplets, and that “wake up” ending — reality bites, literally. Your poems are great and I hope you have another series in the works!

    BTW I just switched your blog over to an RSS feed into my email. I had subscribed through WordPress, but I’m finding the WordPress reader to be worse than useless. Anyway, sorry I missed this at first, but I’m glad I found it now!

  15. Catherine Johnson says:

    Fantastic poem, Cathy!

  16. Nice poem. Fun to read. Great images!

  17. I absolutely love the deCordova! I’m hoping to revisit it this year before it gets too cold to enjoy the sculptures. 🙂

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