Thou house—a poem

Cat clasping a small book, House Poems by Rachel McAlpine

There’s no place like home.

Our family was a movable community
squatting in house after house
never suitable and never ours.
Each new vicarage was a thrill
but icy or haunted or just too small
they never were homes for our mother, not at all.
Imagine moving, moving, moving
seven times in fourteen years
gathering daughters along the way.
And then it stopped. We stopped
and we gained a home and we snuggled in.
Our mother glowed when she spoke of it.
“It grew from the earth like a mushroom.
“It has eyebrows, as it should.
“A stream runs through the garden
“beside a weeping elm.”
The day we arrived I broke a useful thing
and just for a moment, my mother also broke.
She showed me how profound
the ache for home could be.
She showed me how to love and honour
and obey a refuge and a home.
And even now I mean these words:
“Du. Tu. Thou.
“I say to the house, thou house.”

Rachel McAlpine 2016

This poem is a late-life retake of two early poems: Periwinkles in Uniform, about the constant moving from vicarage to vicarage, and House Poems, a series of love poems to the first tiny house I owned. Finally I see that they are two halves of a whole. CC BY 2.0

26 thoughts on “Thou house—a poem

  1. LA says:

    Beautiful. Poem and cat

  2. colonialist says:

    Mind you, to wife and self, anywhere with a cat was a home. Even a wandering Combi Camper.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I understand that. What a difference that little presence makes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It works. Everything works– title, picture, poem. Especially the poem. Glad it all came together for you, and now for us.

  4. Rachel McAlpine says:

    Thank you very much — you reassure me that the bones are there even though the poem needs work.

  5. Great work! Love how this is looking.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I do know how lucky we are, me and my home.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Homes should be loved as you do yours. I love your own poem on the topic for much more than its polish.

      1. Thanks for your kind words, Rachel! Your work here is so good. Even the phrase “movable community” I find to be very evocative.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Good to meet you up here in the atmosphere, Nathan.

      3. Likewise 🙂

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Certain bits really stand out. “movable community” “I broke a useful thing and , just for a moment, my mother broke” For me the two phrases beginning with “she showed” seem a little too wordy. Love the ending. Not that you asked for advice about the poem so feel free to disregard any comment you think off the mark. I love the way you communicate the meaning of home being connected to an actual house.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Elizabeth, the poem still needs work so I’ll ponder your words. Thank you!

      1. Elizabeth says:

        You’re welcome and glad I didn’t overstep.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Better now?

  7. Sadje says:

    Beautifully written.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks Sadie. So far so good.

      1. Sadje says:

        You’re welcome Rachel.

  8. JOY journal says:

    Beautiful, Rachel. Have a blessed weekend.

  9. Love this.

  10. Prue Densem says:

    I love this poem! Resonant with many I’m sure xx

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Prue. The lucky people have homes.

  11. delphini510 says:

    Wonderful poem Rachel. Poetically it tells a story of strength, love and yes … moves.
    For your mother gathering daughters along the way. A life of love and also fatigue.

    Then finding the home of a dream, how good is that.
    and we gained a home and we snuggled in.
    Our mother glowed when she spoke of it.

    It even has a stream through the garden.


    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It was a high point in her life. Thank you!

  12. hilarymb says:

    Hi Rachel – quite delightful … I did live in a vicarage once … and having one’s own first home is always special … but what drew me in … is there’s a friend here with five sisters and one brother – who grew up in vicarages … so reminded me of her – I’ll read it to her when I see her. Very evocative telling and melding the two parts of life … cheers Hilary

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I like to think of you sharing this poem. Thank you, Hilary!

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