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.