Houses Houses Houses

by Mary MacGowan
The Waters
First Place (tie), August 2020
Judged by Ron Singer

We humans like our houses,
but we want to sit outside of our houses
on squares of cement we call a patio.
Or balcony. A stoop, a park.

To build a house, first you dig a hole.
Then it must be covered up and thus
you will live on top of the hole. Then
you will sit outside of your house.

How Trudy and I laughed at mom
saying, Houses houses houses!
for her continual chatter: Look
at the clouds! And that time she

suggested I memorize the sky
as I was lying in the hammock,
in case I went blind someday.
Didn’t all moms do this?

It seems that she was sincere, not
trying to terrify. There was,
perhaps, an article in the paper

about a woman who liked
houses and clouds just fine
and then she went blind, just
like that. It could happen.

And if it did, wouldn’t it be
nice to have
remembered the sky?

But what about


of the mind?      Mom,

was that it

                about you?

Is your parting gift

                                a dark and terrible


This poem explores the idea of home with originality, wit and aplomb. The adolescent narrator (“j.k.”) rings changes on her ambivalence, from the opening idea that we like our houses, but try not to stay inside them, to the last, stark description of “aphantasia,” of an inherited “dark and terrible/ blankness.” The lineation is apt and interesting. The first four stanzas are quatrains that have a traditional look, then; a transitional tercet, and a two-liner; and finally, wispy fragments that reflect that dissolution of the idea of home –which, from the start, was not all that solid. This is a strange, original poem. --Ron Singer