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The house of dreams [poem: House Rules]

May 21, 2011

My friend and fellow dancer Ariana and her two daughters have been accepted into a Habitat for Humanity home project. Habitat is dedicated to giving people the chance to live in a decent home, and the local chapter broke ground for the first pair of 16 townhouse homes last week. It’s an impressive organization, gathering architects who donate design time, banks and other companies that donate funding, and volunteers, friends, and family who pay in “sweat equity” to get roofs over the heads of people who need them. The local chapter is looking for more families for the homes that will be built as part of this project; go here for more information on applying or to volunteer time on the project.

I was honored to be asked to write and read a poem for the groundbreaking.

House Rules

Leave shoes muddied
by frustrations and struggles
at the porch lip to avoid
tracking disappointments
across gleaming wood floorboards.
Open arms wide to entice
all three girls into a hug.
Silently take in brightly painted walls,
sun backlighting splayed curtains,
wildflowers bursting from their binding vase.
Then vividly praise artwork
disguising the kitchen fridge—
the artists are in residence.

The youngest squeezes your hand
in her own small grip,
determined to guide every step.
This is no ordinary tour.
She knows pipes cower
beneath the bathroom sink,
a nail once jutted
from a newly framed wall,
snagging her sister’s red sash.
She describes webs of wires
buried behind switch plates,
remembers freeing the refrigerator
from its cardboard shroud,
the box so enormous
it was like a Christmas morning dream.
The sisters played hopscotch
among the foundation’s rebar,
ran through walls in games of
hide and seek and tag
before insulation swallowed the gaps,
left their handprints in wet concrete
leading to a front door
comforting in its sturdiness.

She earnestly proclaims,
“We built this house,”
with truth that surpasses
childhood perspective:
Mom hung sheetrock.
Grandma pounded nails.
Neighbors and supporters,
old friends and new fans
created this space
just so this pigtailed girl could say,
the way her mother taught her,
“Welcome to my home.”

—Julie Laing

12 Comments leave one →
  1. jmsimpson permalink
    July 23, 2011 5:30 pm

    Wonderful post! How was the reading?


    • August 8, 2011 11:31 am

      Thanks! The reading went beautifully–the response was great, particularly for a crowd that wouldn’t normally be attracted to a poetry reading. And I think the piece was a success–Ariana was crying before I’d even finished, which I took as a good thing.


  2. May 28, 2011 8:47 am

    Wonderful imagery, beautifully written


  3. May 23, 2011 7:03 pm

    I like this – the layering of the rules, the little girl, the welcome. Well done!


  4. Virtual Sinner permalink
    May 23, 2011 9:52 am

    I like this very much.


  5. May 23, 2011 5:59 am

    What a wonderful project and your poem spoke of such happiness and anticipation of a happy home. Glad you visited me so I did not miss this piece.
    A pretty avatar you have too.


    • May 23, 2011 10:04 am

      Thanks, tigerbrite! I often struggle with writing happy poems, so it was good to have a ready-made idea for one! And thanks for the compliment on the avatar–it’s an original doodle I used for the cover of my chapbook and seemed to work so well as an avatar!


  6. May 22, 2011 12:21 pm

    You describe the scene so well, maintaining the poetic sense in sight! Thanks for telling us how it was!


  7. May 21, 2011 5:06 pm

    at home…rest and peace,leave all troubled behind 🙂
    awesome piece, lovely sentiments. Enjoy the rally!


  8. May 21, 2011 12:13 pm

    you deserve the honor to write for the social organization.

    your words painted a house full of imagery, well done.



    • May 22, 2011 11:00 am

      Thanks, Jingle! I had such a short time in which to write it, and so was pleased at how well it came out!


  9. Kristy permalink
    May 21, 2011 11:26 am

    Absolutely beautiful!!!!


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