House (Sean Arthur Joyce)

June 3, 2008

—for Anne, December 2006
& Pablo Neruda

Listen. Listen to this house.

Thin bones of winter light
seep through a membrane
of cold.

The yellow daisy
in the vase
sucks air from a dry lung.

Listen to this house.

Squash aches in a blue bowl
for the sun and shadow
of your face.

The floor holds a long breath
your tiny slippers.

Listen to this house.

Lost in a shell
of days and days
without you.

Waiting for you
to breathe this cold moon
to life.

* * *
Art Joyce is the poster boy of popular Canadian poetry, an arts activist, publisher, historian, you name it. He’s also got a handlebar mustache, or used to, which I can’t decide whether or not is annoying or endearing. In any case, I like this poem because of its acknowledgment of that life present in all houses. I have always been fascinated with the idea that we can know ourselves, know others, by listening to a house. That we see something of ourselves in the arrangement of things, in the clutter, the paint, the dusty windows. I like too how sundry objects remind the poet of his lover, how they continue to converse with the listener, as if out of their very color or substance they want to speak out.

Creeley is perhaps the modern master of the house poem. He knew the conversations that took place there, especially the ones without words, ones that could:

…put it all right,
given time,
and need, and money,

make this place sing,
the rooms open
and warm, and spring
come in at the windows

with the breeze—
the white blossom
of apple
still make this song.

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