Christine Hume
Hum                              (page 2)


I read your book aloud in order to hear you speak, but it’s impossible. Simmering on my eardrum, I hear a radio voice transmitting a whole night throbbing with fireflies, my whole mouth ringing with six hundred species of bacteria, six thousand tingling thrills. My tongue bloats and dampens. “Red rings inwardly…” Kandinsky muses, “It glows in itself, maturely, and doesn’t distribute its vigor aimlessly.”1 When I read your book aloud, it changes my body—racing heart, reddened face, adrenalized viscera. My voice pins me down, flays me. When I drag my voice out from hiddenness, my body is a study in stuck visibility.

But when I hear your voice, my throat readies, my mouth waters in anticipation. I am already listening. Because I know you, I recognize your voice long before you enter eyeshot. Voice comes a long way before the face.


When I turned 12, my family moved to the woods. I did not have one friend that long summer. There are other details, but the point is: I developed a barely audible hum. Distressed, I rang out. A tiny, high diva voice emerged in soft spectacle from my throat. Mostly I did not know I was sounding off until someone called my attention to it. My hum asked for no answer. Yet my mother and brother noted my psychological leakage in annoyance; sometimes strangers cocked their heads at me with a worried look. The excess of it attracted judgment. The ambient sonority of it—wasp, bee, and fly hum—drove me further into the lone woods.

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