Three Poems – Lynn Otto

Lynn Otto


It can’t be fixed, says my father
of the dryer, the Maytag of many years—most
of their marriage—and the protest
of my mother, who can’t do laundry anymore anyway,
doesn’t stop him from having it hauled away,
ordering a Kenmore.

What he means is he can’t fix it. He has fallen
and what can a man do with a broken rib?
The third bird in two days hits the window and drops,
a rose-breasted nuthatch I place in a napkin,
but they won’t touch its fine fine feathers for fear of lice.
I’m to throw it in the bay.

If my daughter were here, she would bury it in a small box,
lined with a scrap of soft cloth.
But there’s no time for dead birds.
The crabs creep out sideways to clean up,
and my mother says to call the crematorium the minute she dies.
When the Maytag goes, she cries.

We Move to Morton Street

My husband thinks of salt, the girl with the umbrella,
the sunny yellow dress. I think of death,

la morte. When it rains, it pours.
When it stops, we pull out the overgrown shrubs,

contemplate the empty beds for months, undecided. Not roses
because deer come up from the ravine. They browse

the neighborhood, nibbling off the blooms with their black lips,
dwarfing the plastic deer next door, who eat nothing.

Only in that chain-linked yard the roses thrive
and three fat Chihuahuas, who nonchalantly blink

until you touch the gate. The deer step past,
past the duplex in its tangle of blackberries,

where weeds wave from the back of a pickup on blocks
and grocery ads turn to pulp in their plastic bags,

though someone lives there on the left side. Black shirt, black pants,
he comes and goes in a black Camaro. No roses

and none at the yellow house, where no one lives
except when the daughter returns to visit her dead parents’

things. Sits on the couch she grew up with, drinks
from the same cups in the same cupboard.

In the grey house, the guy tries to forget
he ran over a kid in the crosswalk. His wife hollers

for help when he gets out of hand, and someone calls 9-1-1
and the deer spook down the street. At the end of the block,

the divorcée. Her flower beds collect cigarette butts
while she strokes the cat that hangs around.

Her son will wreck the car and she knows it.

Comfort, Comfort Me

I have come to church with the dust of broken things in my lungs
I have come with so much broken in my throat
I croak the gospel choruses
I mouth the psalms doubting

Just give me a sip of mercy
Let me hear the story of repair

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