You’ve got to put your pants on in the house of fact

I plucked Tom Sleigh’s new collection House of Fact, House of Ruin off NPR’s free shelf when I was visiting a dear friend who works there in D.C. this winter. I brought it to a cafe with me the next morning and when I came to this poem, I read it again, and again, and again.



You’ve got to put your pants on in the house of fact.
And in the house of fact, when you take off your shirt,
you can hear your shirt cry out, Facts are the floor, facts
are how you make the right side talk to the left.

I’m washing my naked belly clean, and doing it with dignity.
I’m turning around, trying to see the filthiness
that keeps making me filthy. I’ve scraped away
my molecules right down to the atoms’ emptiness

and arranged the map’s folds so that nobody
can see it breaking into fits of weeping.
Now that even our eyes have their dedicated poverties,

now that even our eyes are chained to their slavish occupations,
whatever the soul lacks drains the soul to nothing.
I hate to admit it, but even the house of fact is a house of ruin.


And if the sun comes How shall we greet him?

I can’t believe I’ve let nine years of this blog pass without posting the work of the inimitable and essential Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), so let me amend that now with one of her great early poems.




And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.