“Ash” by Tracy K. Smith

tracy k smith

This poem by Tracy K. Smith in the New Yorker has haunted me this week.



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.


Visit the link below to listen to the poet read the poem.


I asked Facebook friends what conclusions they arrived to in response to the poem. One person said that it was a riddle. Another person asked the reader to consider what a “house” or “home” means to them. My friend Edgar posted the poem “House” by C.K. Williams which offered a lot in terms of compare and contrast.

C.K. Williams House

My other friend Karen suggested the house as body, as in, the body that houses the soul. Karen’s take made the most sense to me, and the title “Ash” conveyed the idea of mortality, as in “ashes to ashed, dust to dust.”

That’s all. Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment.

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