Poem of the Week, by Stephen Dunn

My dog and I often walk past a house being built on Lake of the Isles. For two years now I’ve watched this house take shape from a staked hole in the ground to the beamed stone and frame beauty it’s becoming. A craftsman built curved and arched stone walls by hand, hefting each rock in his hands, considering its possible place in the wall.

Every time we walk past I compliment the men on their work. Windows like portholes. A huge framed entrance. Those beautiful wave-like stone walls. The house is made of rock and slate and wood and light and endless hours of skill and artistry and labor.

At some point this house will be finished, and the people who paid for it will move in. Along with their belongings they will bring their hearts and minds, their feelings toward each other and the world. Within the untouched rooms of this huge home will be laughter and fights and sorrows and hopes and regrets.

But the rooms of the house will always remember the touch of the men who made them, the deep, slow care embedded in their walls.

The Room, by Stephen Dunn

The room has no choice.
Everything that’s spoken in it
it absorbs. And it must put up with

the bad flirt, the overly perfumed,
the many murderers of mood—
with whoever chooses to walk in.

If there’s a crowd, one person
is certain to be concealing a sadness,
another will have abandoned a dream,

at least one will be a special agent
for his own cause. And always
there’s a functionary,

somberly listing what he does.
The room plays no favorites.
Like its windows, it does nothing

but accommodate shades
of light and dark. After everyone leaves
(its entrance, of course, is an exit),

the room will need to be imagined
by someone, perhaps some me
walking away now, who comes alive

when most removed. He’ll know
from experience how deceptive
silence can be. This is when the walls

start to breathe as if reclaiming the air,
when the withheld spills forth,
when even the chairs start to talk.

Stephen Dunn, “The Room” from What Goes On. For more information on Stephen Dunn, please click here.

Words by Winter: my podcas


  1. Cathy Lentes · August 7, 2021

    I love everything about this post. Thank you. Cathy

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 2 people

  2. alisonmcghee · August 7, 2021

    Thank you, Cathy. I’m so glad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jinx · August 8, 2021

    Your story, the builders, I can see them and wondered if they might have left private messages in the walls! Then the poem, perfect.
    Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

    • alisonmcghee · August 8, 2021

      That is such a beautiful idea. I hope they did!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. April Halprin Wayland · August 8, 2021

    Oh, my ~ this one came to me at the exact right time in my life.

    And Dunn’s personification of the room, the chairs….is addictive. I wanted it to go on and on and on.

    Liked by 1 person

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