what is your house dreaming of?

More than just wood or plaster, houses are alive with their own feelings and dreams. Each room has a story to tell.

“The Breakfast Table” by William Ratcliffe
NO. 115 DREAMS
by Jackie Kay

The living room remembers Gran dancing to Count Basie.
The kitchen can still hear my aunts fighting on Christmas day.
The hall is worried about the loose banister.
The small room is troubled by the missing hamster.
The toilet particularly dislikes my Grandfather.
The wallpaper covers up for the whole family.

And No. 115 dreams of lovely houses by the sea.
And No. 115 dreams of one night in the country.

The stairs are keeping schtum about the broken window.
The toilet’s sick of the trapped pipes squealing so.
The walls aren’t thick enough for all the screaming.
My parent’s bedroom has a bed in a choppy sea.
My own bedroom loves the bones of me.
My brother’s bedroom needs a different boy.

And No. 115 dreams of yellow light, an attic room.
And No. 115 dreams of a chimney, a new red roof.

And the red roof dreams of robin redbreasts
tap dancing on the red dance floor in the open air.

~ from Red, Cherry Red (Bloomsbury, 2019)
“Attic Room” by William Ratcliffe (1918)

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“The Red Curtain” by William Ratcliffe (ca. 1916).

Homebody me really enjoyed this poem. I loved learning about the house’s residents and their activities via No. 115’s point of view. 

When it comes to houses, we often think of them in terms of our personal memories, not considering how those houses may have felt about themselves or us.

As a word lover, I like to think that the most valuable thing every house retains are all the conversations ever spoken there. Words, phrases, exclamations, random utterances – all lingering in the air over time, becoming part of every room’s DNA. Once spoken, you can’t take your words back; the room has snatched them up for good.

“Incoming Tide Loch Gruinart Isle of Islay” by Jolomo (John Lowrie Morrison).

Especially lovely are No. 115’s dreams, lyrically beautiful two line stanzas gently drifting in between the more prosaic details of ordinary life. Oh for those “lovely houses by the sea,” “one night in the country,” or “robin redbreasts tap dancing on the red dance floor in the open air”!

Dreams make life more bearable. Even for houses. Now I’m wondering what my house is dreaming of – charming cottages in the Cotswolds, a teddy bear picnic in the woods, or one night in the Scottish Highlands?

And isn’t “schtum” just the best word? 🙂

“Red Roofs, Quiet Cove, Isle of Harris” by Jolomo.

Enjoy this video of Jackie reading the poem. Love her Scottish accent.

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Lovely and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup today. Drift on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Goodbye, Poetry Month, and Happy Almost May!!


*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

51 thoughts on “what is your house dreaming of?

  1. Yes, schtum” IS the best word. And, just like I to walk through a model home, I like taking a peek into the home of this poem. What a lovely start to my day. Thanks, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like model homes too :). It’s interesting to learn about a home’s inhabitants by what the rooms think. Charmed by Jackie’s reading too.

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  2. The voice and the dreams of a home–not even walls, floors and ceilings can keep schtum for long! I learned just enough German to recall that “stimme” means voice but “stumm” means mute. How interesting is THAT? Love seeing Jackie Kay here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your post is a ‘home run’, Jama. Thank you for including the video of Jackie reading her poem…I could listen to her read poems all day… 🙂
    “My own bedroom loves the bones of me” – as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The poem is kind of a love fest, Jama. Each part makes me wonder about my own house, or the other ones, too! I love “the room has snatched them up for good”, & of course, “schtum”! Thank you for starting this Friday so wonderfully!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this poem, Jama! And Jackie Kay is new to me. Now I have to think about my house where I grew up. I think it will make a very interesting poem. Not to mention my current house which is getting quite a workover at the moment. Thanks so much for this great (as always) post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Would be fun to write a poem about what your current house thinks of the renovation. Bah humbug? or you’re finally fixing me? 😀 It’s always nostalgic to remember childhood homes too.

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  6. Jama, this is a beautiful poem for Poem in My Pocket Day. I hold the memories of all the houses I grew up in and the house my children grew up in. Now my granddaughters will hopefully remember this new house of mine with joy. Thanks for the walkthrough with Jackie and adding the video. Yes, the new word of the day is beautifully tucked away in the poem. “The stairs are keeping schtum about the broken window.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are making such beautiful memories with your granddaughters in your new home, Carol. Already your house has heard their happy voices and will remember their creative play. 🙂

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  7. Enjoyed reading this and hearing Ms. Kay. In addition to the bit about the toilet’s feelings re: Grandfather, I was struck by “The small room is troubled by the missing hamster” because we had a gerbil go rogue and I wonder how the room felt about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hooray for learning about new poets! Excited to learn more about Jackie and her wonderful word work. I’ve been binging the British program “Escape to the Country,” and so many of the homes the participants peruse in search of their country escape have lived such interesting lives. Thanks, as always, Jama.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, I thought the poem was brilliant when I read it, but then to hear the poet read it – magical! Thank you; my Scottish fix for the day. And look at you, finding perfect images as always but injecting some more “red” into the mix of paintings, echoing the collection’s title.
    Hugs with a cherry on top to you and Mr. C.!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. One of the first books I bought for my son when he was a baby was “Wake Up House!: Rooms Full of Poems” about the personalities of household objects. I love how Jackie Kay’s poem takes that concept up a notch. Also love the artwork you chose to include. Thanks, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a lovely poem! And I also enjoyed your thought of a room snatching up snippets of conversation for good. All of a sudden, I’m seeing my house in a different, almost feral, way.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, I adore everything about this post! That poem is fantabulous. I love the idea of the house having feelings, memories, dreams, and aspirations. The paintings you chose punctate the poem perfectly, Jama. And Kay reading the poem (I swoon over any and every Scottish accent) is the cherry on top of this Red Cherry Red poetry sundae.

    What a marvelous writing prompt: what does my house dream of? Think? Remember? Hope for? When I was growing up, we moved around a lot (Air Force dad) but now, at age 62, I’ve finally lived in one house for 19 years and I think this place has a lot to say. I’ll be scribbling in my journal later today. Thanks, Jama.
    ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Karen. I’m so with you on loving any and every Scottish accent. Jackie reads beautifully (not all poets do!). I’m sure your house does have a lot to say about you and the rest of your family! I imagine the room where you do your writing would have the most interesting observations (don’t know about you, but I talk to myself a lot when I’m writing). 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wouldn’t it be fun to tour each other’s homes and speculate on what the walls would say? 😀 I would swoon over the whimsy of your house and would probably never leave!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hah – yes, that would be fun. In your house, I would especially like to see where Atticus baked his bread, and where Ramona came up with all her funny sayings (every room, right?).

        Liked by 1 person

  13. This poem makes me wonder about my childhood home. What’s it like now without us in it? Did it miss us? Does it still? I can close my eyes and see every room clearly. What does it remember of me??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s something I hadn’t considered. Yes, that would be interesting. Having driven by my childhood home in Hawaii years ago, I can say it looked kind of sad (yard was a mess, the outside badly needed a paint job). Wouldn’t want to imagine what the inside looked like. My parents kept up the place so well before they sold it.

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  14. I am very late to the party but I enjoyed the richness of this and the idea of homes and what they store of our lives. I just finished Backman’s Anxious People which spoke to this theme as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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