Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Clara's House

In Clara’s House

In your house
Christmas was always kept
my grandfather getting the tree
from the VA lot, cheap and scrawny,
you and I making it fit to be seen
before the sisters and the cousins came
to eat.

In your house
a discard was an ornament
something broken could be fixed
and used again.
something ugly could be cleaned
and put in a place of pride

In your house
African violets ruled in fertile hosts,
as big as geraniums, green guards with mauve caps
or cobalt, protecting every table, every window,
grown from microleaves I watched you cut and
place on soil like rows of crops from the farm 
you couldn’t have.

In your house
you set the table
carved and heavy, massive made,
covered with lace where all the family came for
groaning meals, and on off days
a child could hide between the legs
and be a lion.

In your house
a child with one mother lost
could have many found, in tales and talk
smelling like coffee and cardamon,
and soap, mother hands brushing princess hair,
braiding it into dragontails.

In your house,
Christmas was always kept.
The tree star watched while we were singing
and the casual blows and formal fear
the hidden anger and secret prisons
of that other house,
were nothing for awhile.

December 2010

Posted for One Shot Wednesday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry 

Photo of Clara Mathilda Carlson taken by Robert Studio, Chicago, Ill, 194?


  1. I like the way it deals with positive and negative simultaneously. Memories, stunning imagery too, great 'One Shot':)

  2. Evocative...will bring many memories back for many readers.

  3. Superb One Shot! So full of interesting, emotive detail!

  4. oh she must have been a wonderful person - what a great poem to honor her joy
    my fav line (though they are all great) was
    ..A child could hide between the legs
    And be a lion...

  5. sounds like a great place to be...where the discarded find value...nice one shot!

  6. 'In your house' that kind of house is everyone's mothers/parents house..beautiful

  7. Powerful poem. You paint her home and heart well. The ending has an extra punch (couldn't resist bad pun).

  8. ahh..the memories,somehow i felt my grandmother 's house there,she was that beautiful and whenever it gets heavy,all i have is the smell of her house, filled with love..beautiful poem..:)

  9. Indeed a tribute (so loved your posting her picture)..I know that house as well and the love of grandmothers. So special, so comforting even in memory. The last stanza set in juxtaposition is powerful and haunting. Well done as always, Joy. Wishing you comforts of the holiday. Thanks for the comments on mine. Indeed I've left the churches of the world, myself, to find my faith in connections of love and I feel deep love for you and your poems, sweet one.

  10. Beautiful. I like the thing with memories in poems because they become collective and collectable. One can't cease seeing images in front of one's eyes passing like a movie. Truly beautiful.

    I'm adding your blog to my reading list hedgewitch, I'll be back whenever you have a new something. =)

    Take care and keep smiling.


  11. Your poem just brought me back many years, to a time when I felt unconditional love from my grandparents. Thank you for that. Their house meant everything to me growing up, and holidays are the happiest times I recall. The final instance of "In your house.." really got to me. You write outstanding poetry.

  12. Thanks for all the heartfelt comments. I'm honored to receive them.

    @Gay & dustus, especially, Thanks so much for your support. It means a lot.

  13. i find it very touching, brought me reminiscing my childhood days, that pure thoughts of happiness simply knowing that Christmas meant comforts of home, sharing moments (and souvenirs) with family

  14. "A child could hide between the legs
    And be a lion.

    In your house
    A child with one mother lost
    Could have many found, in tales and talk
    Smelling like coffee and cardamon,
    And soap, mother hands brushing princess hair,
    Braiding it into dragontails"

    Rawr! The memories.

  15. Wow, what a great memory of I am guessing your Grandmother...my grandmothers name was Clara too....the wants of these strong woman..their making a home, a holiday out of whatever was available and creating dreams in children for years and lifetimes to come...thank you for sharing this piece of yourself with us....blessings..bkm

  16. such a sweet and loving memory!

  17. Moving. Your deep feeling for Clara comes across beautifully in a number of really wonderful lines. There is excellent control of the lines without loss of the emotion behind them.

  18. Such an amazing story told in detail of word and image. Great job!

  19. Truly an amazing poem filled with such vivid images and emotions. Great One Shot!

  20. poignant, picturesque with a plausible narrative arc -- merits rereads...

  21. Such intricate detail beautifully remembered in the simplest of things...but then "unique" without any doubt.
    A beautiful tribute to a beautiful loved one...these words reflect such love.... ~April

  22. Fantastic poem. There is no place like Grandma's house for safety and acceptance. "the secret prisons of that other house were nothing for a while." It was that way for me too. Wonderful poem. Our grandmas even looked somewhat alike! I have a photo of my grandma about that age in a hat.

  23. Oh I loved this, so full of imagery.
    I especially loved the line...
    "Place on soil like rows of crops from the farm
    You couldn’t have."

  24. Clara's house sounds like the place i so wish i could have known...this is a wonderful christmas poem flowing with description, mood, sadness and joy...and wonderful write...and i hope you enjoy the festive season too..all the best pete

  25. The contrast between "your house" - a refuge - and the other house -- all seen through the eyes of a child. Excellent.

  26. A place of safety beautifully rendered. And this: "A child with one mother lost / Could have many found" is wonderful

  27. Great tribute to a lovely warm person and time...
    Thanks for your comment
    You are great writer, I wish I could follow...
    (How come there's no followers list?)

    Wishing you the best for this LOVE season

  28. Expressive and detailed, a safe and lovely memory, full of strong imagery related believably through the eyes and mind of a child. Fine verse!

    Happy Holidays to you!

  29. Then accumulation of domestic vignettes led by the line 'In your house' create a vivid picture of warmth and refuge.

  30. The slide toward the end, the build up toward the unexpected deepens the story, gives it meaning, makes your poem unforgettable. Great narrative verse! Thanks, Maureen!

  31. You're welcome Alegria. I'm actually Joy, but it's quite a compliment to be confused with such an excellent poet. ;-) Lots of people and poetry out there this wednesday, it gets hard to keep it all straight after 100 or so comments.

  32. Practical-minded Xmas work. Poems this amazing make this horrible, horrible season worthwhile. Excellent work.

  33. Beautifully expressed memories of your Gran's house.Anyone is lucky who has had a darling in their life!

  34. this is strong work. You write with a sure hand in what I like to call 'structured free verse'... tidy septets here, all following the same contours and some repetition/semi-repetition. Feels like a ballad actually; remind me (especially structurally) of one of my ballads, but you don't have the end-rhyme. Which works well here. Great piece, HedgeWitch.

    happy solstice

    Luke @ WordSalad

  35. The fantasy that Christmas brings. We are all happy family. No wonder Santa always says "Ho, Ho, Ho."

  36. Mine lived too far away but I know I would have run to them often if only they were closer. BTW- I LOVE Clara's hat!

  37. Good to hear from all of you. I value your feedback, and appreciate your time and thoughts.

    @Monkey Man yes, a bit of an irony, that. The assumptions are glossy, but the famous 'spirit' not nearly universal.

    @Luke: Yes, I worked a little on the form here, but decided not to force it into a rhyme scheme. Glad you liked.

    And yes, my grandmother loved her hats. ;-)

  38. Oh I absolutely love this. Such echoes of my own beloved grandmother whose house was always a sanctuary for me. The structure and repetition really work well for the piece and your voice is strong and reverent throughout this really beautifully crafted piece.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

Comment Moderation Has Been Enabled