Melancholy Hyperbole

Poetry about longing.

Requiem for Useful Things

            For Alfreda Boblick, 1924-2015


I am startled by the bird cry of the dry, metal
hinges fastened to the nameless device
rusting at the back of my grandmother’s garage.
It’s something corrugated, with a handcrank.
I find it only after she passes,
after it’s too late to ask her what it’s good for.
Bird song forever echoes now that nameless absence,
the times I’ve failed to know
an old thing’s usefulness.
My grandmother left this world in pink—
the pink robe wrapped awkwardly around
the hollow-bone IV lines, the lingering color of flesh
that no longer wanted to sustain itself,
the hospital sheet stained pink with thumbprints
from being fed the raspberries we brought—
the only food she’d eaten in days—
and then pulling the blankets up to her chest.
My mother delivered the berries with a finger-beak.
Baby bird, she clucked and smiled,
and dropped a fat, red, bug of a berry
onto the tired, outstretched tongue.
Each pink dawn brings a burden
of names and purposes, impossible to remember everything,
impossible—in the end—to discern the raspberry
from all the juicy berries of a long life,
or to forget the imposing weight of your voice
as it falls empty in empty rooms.
When we tire, the breathless sky does the right thing
and yields. No more questions.
Only in one eye does the catchlight of day’s end
reflect in miniature the turning earth and all its fruits.
The other is in shadow.


Lynn Marie Houston’s poetry has appeared in various journals and in her first collection, The Clever Dream of Man (Aldrich Press). One of her poems won second place from the Arizona State Poetry Society in the 2015 contest sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. After earning a Ph.D. from Arizona State University, she is currently pursuing her MFA at Southern Connecticut State University. Visit her website here.

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