Old Houses

Aunt Martha bustles
From room to room
Between attic and basement,
With duster and broom.
Like an oven grenade,
In cobwebby corners
Her broom explodes
A babel of wonders.
Her summer crusade
Havocs the bugs.
Like an enfilade,
She rakes the rugs.
The sound and fury
Of table and bed
Whirs a panic of sparrows
To the oaks overhead.
Untenable grows
The vast of the house
For even the ghost
Of Lazarus’ mouse.
The fogies convert
Back fences to staffs
And sow their gossip
With Pharisee laughs:
Aunt Martha’s scowl
Is a lithograph’s.
As the fogies watch
Her attic lairs
Jettison the junk
Of heirloom wares,
She shouts: “Old houses
Need cleaning upstairs!”

Melvin Tolson, "Old Houses" from Harlem Gallery and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1999)
Source: "Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (University Press of Virginia, 1999)
More Poems by Melvin B. Tolson