Listening to the house


Sometimes I listen to the house in fear

that floors will crack and dry joists snap

beneath the weight of years and things.

Those straining shelves of yellowed pages,

dusty boxes full of scraps

and bits and bolts, shreds and shards

of things that once were but are no more,

sigh, hung together by the will of memory.

All those weary rags of weft and warp,

an unknown’s woven history, moth-nibbled,

the sad colour of pressed flowers,

scuttle with the dry scratch of insect legs,

the dull chunks and struts and planks of wood,

once useful boxes or picture frames

and rusting bits of metal that will never run again.

I lie between the walls and listen to the night birds,

wind whispering in the trees, bending rushes on the lake,

touch the air that swishes, cool and musky,

when the silent fox pads by

and watch the pattern of the stars.

But in this cloistered place,

airless and arid as a museum case,

the rust-specked fabric

and the creaking, tired joints

and the sagging cushions cry out,

Let go,

shake out the ragged collections, white flags in the twilight,

let them fly with borrowed wings

to the place where unsorted memories go.

Toss the boxes and bedding and dull brass and tin

where their dog end of life will end in silence and dust,

and the shameful, furtive snatches of memory

kept tight closed in anonymous corners

will have no more weight upon this here, this now

than the fading faces of shallow loves,

long sunk beneath the ripples of the timeless mirror pool.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

19 thoughts on “Listening to the house”

      1. I’ve chucked out everything of mine I don’t want to keep, but the quantity of loose screws, plastic containers, pieces of wood, spare chair legs, bits of bicycles etc etc is what’s causing the problems.

  1. As we sort out the contents of a very large home to move to a very small patio home, your poem really resonates with me. Each box that goes to charity means less to weigh me down. A big help in this effort is signing with Everything But the House. They’ve taken a huge load off by sorting through and casting off or marking for sale. Our sale goes live tonight. Whew. One week and folks will be coming to pick up their booty. Good luck to you.

    1. You sound very well organized! There’s nothing like that here, but even if there were, it’s convincing husband to part with the very interesting, useful possessions he has accumulated that’s the real problem.

      1. I understand. My husband has saved every nut, bolt, screw he’s found in 47 years of marriage. You never know when you are going to need that “one”, but he always heads out to Home Depot when he needs one and comes back with more. Now, don’t get me started on the scraps of wood he has saved “just in case.”

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