Strange house we must keep and fill.

House that eats and pleads and kills.

House on legs. House on fire. House infested

With desire. Haunted house. Lonely house.

House of trick and suck and shrug.

Give-it-to-me house. I-need-you-baby house.

House whose rooms are pooled with blood.

House with hands. House of guilt. House

That other houses built. House of lies

And pride and bone. House afraid to be alone.

House like an engine that churns and stalls

House with skin and hair for walls.

House the seasons singe and douse.

House that believes it is not a house.

Tracy K. Smith, “Ash” from Wade in the Water. Copyright © 2018 by Tracy K. Smith. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,

This poem was originally read in the On Being episode “love is a language / Few practice, but all, or near all speak.”