Kelsey Horton

Red Plastic Hope: A Poem

By Kelsey Horton


I don’t remember how to attract hummingbirds, but I still try.
I read books about pollinators
and wish for a red hummingbird feeder. I wade through
rusty online databases of native Texas plants.
I stare into my garden between the dusty ivory blinds,
fixated on the purple and yellow coneflowers
I painstakingly chose.
No hummingbirds come.

I don’t remember how to write a poem, but I keep trying.
My heart thumps beneath crusted debris,
trying to emerge with a grain of truth.
She smacks herself against the scrolling, the news,
the insurance commercials I stopped noticing,
the attention I pay to everyone’s lives but my own.
Every cut that dulled me over time.
She can’t make a crack.

I write anyways: clunkiness &
generalizations & ramblings.
Somewhere in that mess I hope to find a sliver of light
welling up from within me. A gift
from the free-flowing girl I once was.
But I sift through the words and find nothing that shimmers.
Just sawdust and used Band-Aids and
stories whose magic I can’t touch.
I watch other writers string metaphors and
nuances together like it’s nothing,
who capture the intricacies of
winter ivy and
red lipstick and
passing conversations.

I wonder what it’s like to have a brain
that hasn’t shriveled into normalcy.

I don’t remember how to attract hummingbirds or write poems.
I don’t know how to make them come or make them stay.
I only know how to watch them zip past me from the other side of the glass,
heading in the wrong direction.

My fiancé drives us to the hardware store
and saves the last bottle of hummingbird nectar off the shelf for me.
We debate the best way to hang the red
plastic feeders as I weigh each one in my hands. I
spill nectar across my kitchen counter, leaving
sticky spots to deal with in the morning.
He hangs my new hummingbird feeder,
triumphant, dangling, a foot away
from my coneflowers, trying to ignite my smile,
trying to will a sweetly-feeding hummingbird
into existence for me.

I stare between the dusty blinds
waiting for hummingbirds in stubborn expectation
clinging to ragged hope.


By Kelsey Horton

1 thought on “Red Plastic Hope: A Poem

  1. I get the waiting waiting waiting
    I get the duldrum life’s essence enclosed in plastic the joviality covered with dust
    I get the unencumbered quality of life put on hold
    I get the moments of trying to be present for whatever comes hoping for the hummingbirds to fleet in front of us so we again feel absolute awe-
    I get it all-
    I do miss traveling to far away places where I can soak up newness and feel my synapses turning in renewal-now it has come to a screeching halt-
    I get it all-
    Why I wear my masks each time I venture out staying insulared to a point-
    So someday might come one day.
    Good days again flowering, feeling like the birds I hear.

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