This is the house that love built.
You know the one, it’s yellow
with the burning bush out front
providing privacy for

inside our bedroom window,
where nighttime huddling against
demands of the outside world
reaches its peak in darkest

hours, wrapped in hand-quilted rags,
flannel & corduroy clouds,
arms for buoying, protecting
all we’ve grown together. Yet

the long arm of you-know-what
is just outside that same glass,
its death-grip squeezing, squeezing
till the siding cracks, shingles

rattle; we crank the volume
to mute its scolding (you’ve made
poor choices, now deal with them).
Responsibility weighs

on the shoulders of the strong
so carry that weight, pillows
cast aside, carry that weight
as the strongarms of finance

squeeze us dry, replace slumber
with debtor nightmares, pin hope
to the immobility
mat, cradle every last dream

till we’re dead. In here tonight
our flannel sanctuary
still holds, ricketier than
yesterday, but standing on

a foundation stronger than
concrete, poured with vigilance,
shored between storms, poverty
at arm’s length while we make love.

For Kerry’s weekend prompt to the Real Toads, celebrating the birthday of Marianne Moore. This is my imaginary (okay, real) garden with a real (I wish imaginary) toad in it. Or containing it.

Also #3 of 30 Poems In November to benefit Center for New Americans.


  1. Oh, I like this take Marian--what more 'idyllic' setting than the refuge of lover's arms, and what uglier toad than the nasty strangling 'arms of finance.'--besides being an excellent response to a very difficult challenge, this is one of your most musical and lyric poems ever. Love especially the ending.

  2. Isn't love continually being interrupted by life? So important to know the correct time to shut the door on it, even for a while, and focus on the love, which is far more crucial to well-being than paying the bills and figuring out the awful responsibilities that would tear people apart if we let them.

    I really felt the narrator's dilemma here, the sense of being torn between the external and internal world, and the windows proving a flimsy barrier, the quilts offering momentary comfort. I was so pleased when you ended on a note of hope.

  3. Wow. This might be my favourite poem ever M. I just love the feeling of safety against the hostile world i really felt this. Well done!

  4. How much I appreciate what a safe harbor home can become -- when its worked for, shared, beloved -- and how much the outside world sometimes seems to be poised at its windows, tapping cruelly throughout the night. We fear, often, losing all of this, of growing old without the sense of sanctuary. Great poem.

  5. A wonderful write to the prompt, Marian. It makes me think of "the world is too much with us late and soon" and I wonder if Wordsworth knew the world would one day come to this: "squeeze us dry, replace slumber with debtor nightmares"!
    Great work here, my friend.
    Luv, K

  6. This is just terrific, Marian -- a great take on the prompt but also just a great poem--so true to life--the debt like an adulteror peering in -- so well done and terrifically vivid details - the flannel especially thanks. k.

  7. this is a wonderful pen, marian: resonant and sharp

  8. AN awful intruder, creeping into mind and emotions and under skin, in the walls, and in every sound--but not into the arms and the heart. I believe it.

  9. Wow. This is so honest and gives one a "peak under the covers" so to speak. I love the dreamy romanticizing of the beginning and the (more real) love that wraps this poem up. NICE NICE NICE!

  10. thank you, dear friends. this one, well, it started out soft and then got a life of its own. you know.

  11. I love that you brought this to life with a personal flavor...it really brings the challenge to life. It is horrifying the strains that are put on families all over the country just to try and survive. It really shouldn't be that way. Keep making love and maybe eventually money won't matter. *sigh* I wish.

  12. I think this has to be one of my favorites now - brava, my dear! brava!

    1. yeah? thanks! i rather like it too, even if it makes me feel exposed. what with that dude and his long arms peering in my windows and all.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts!