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  • Writer's pictureAlex Butler

Hummingbirds by Alex Butler with Sy Montgomery

The Amethyst, Brazil (1863) by Martin Heade, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley


I'm moved and honored that Alex Butler nestles his immured sonnet within the embrace of my book. Both his sonnet and The Hummingbirds' Gift are odes to beginnings: his unborn child, in the sonnet, is still under construction; the two orphaned baby hummingbirds, unfeathered and flightless, are as well. One baby is in a belly and two others are in a nest, but all three of of these tiny, vulnerable, unfinished creatures need our careful nurturing to survive. All three are as yet unfinished, but already loved. And that is the glory of these twinned journeys--of the loved and wanted fetus on her way to meet her parents, and of the orphaned baby birds, destined to one day master the sky: The gift they bring us is to enlarge our compassion, to open our hearts to welcome these little ones to the world.

Sy Montgomery


My newest immured sonnet finds its home nestled in a piece of prose by Sy Montgomery, from her book, "A Hummingbird's Gift" (2021).

The sonnet works with a rhyme scheme (ABBA, CDDC, EFFE) and a traditional rhyming couplet at the end. I chose the prose because it illustrates a mysterious picture - a precious incubator.

The "jewel box" incubator is home to something... but the reader doesn't find out what exactly it is until the last words of the piece: 2 baby hummingbirds.

The subject matter of my poem hits very close to the heart because it details a pregnancy. Like all my immured sonnets, I try to draw parallels between the prose and the poem. While writing this, my wife and I are expecting a baby daughter in the next few weeks. And so, as you read on, the idea of an incubator is broadened.

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Alex Butler is a nurse in the operating rooms at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, specializing in the trauma and oncology unit. He is an avid reader and writer, living in Somerville, where he enjoys cooking with his wife, Allison.


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