The House of Thorns

21 November 2011

Here is the other poem which I wrote for the Family Matters Exhibition, and here is the image which inspired it.  This sculpture called to me across a crowded room.  It’s still calling to me now.


The House of Thorns
after Alice Maher

It takes no more than a word
for a flame to stir in its womb
for smoke to rise and push at the walls
like a trapped and injured beast.

There is no chimney, no window,
no gasps of air, so the fire that’s grown
too big for the hearth
will die before it eats up the room.

Here is a bed for the wolf,
here is a chair burst at the seams
and here’s the little pot
that will cook and cook and cook.


It’s hard to imagine a path from this house
when you can’t imagine a door.
The roof is braced against all four winds,
you’re swaddled inside a coat of thorns.

There are stories about spring mornings,
about dew-soaked grass,
the signature of your footsteps;
you, the only child on earth.

The house is blind to romance;
makes you pin down your tongue;
rocks you till you fall asleep
hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye.


When the seeds are planted
and the roses are grown
mature enough for a harvest of thorns
and all the effort of building a home
tattoos neat scratches
on your parents’ hands,
now, think of a house.

Think of another house
a house of your own,
cut from the cloth of your very own skin.
The thought rises up
like a singing clock;
its bird constructed
of feathers and springs.