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Elizabeth Anne Socolow, a native of New York City, has taught in many venues, most recently at Rutgers University. A founding member of U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative, she won the Barnard Poetry Prize in 1987 for her first book, Laughing at Gravity: Conversations with Isaac Newton. She has edited U.S.1 Worksheets and is poetry editor of the Newsletter of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts. Socolow’s poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Ploughshares, Nimrod, and Ms. Magazine.

Elizabeth Socolow celebrates the unnoticed small perfections of the natural world, like the spores of the fern, and links them to large questions of connectedness and complexity.

—Evelyn Witkin, Geneticist and Director-at-Large of the New York Browning Society



If You Build a House

Like smoke taken by the wind this morning--
the way sleep vanishes and day is what is left.
Today the house where I awaken is a large white face
with clown lips painted on it for a door, and sad, exaggerated eyes.
I am leaving for work through a tear duct. I know I am being born
as Sorrow itself to an ordinary day and a voice saying That wasn't
so bad, now was it? and I am furious--it was terrible, but I am
diplomatic even in the dream, gracious, and I nod at the clown-face
house, that winks an upstairs window. There is a sound--
shattering glass. I look back and there is no wedding, nothing,
only an ordinary road with a white house, gray roof, set back
in a stand of aspen. They shiver, for which they are famous,
though I am known to no one for miles around.
Even the terrible things are wonderful here.
The paint is fresh.
On such a solitary road,
I might meet a stranger who is honest.
There is a squirrel who knows nothing of lies
and it is climbing a rainspout. And there are small
brown-and-white birds at the feeder.
I wish for goldfinch, but it only lasts a minute.
A roof maker is studying a fallen cone to learn the art of shingling.
How can I read his mind? He is friendly, smiles,
like the house that vanished. Tells me these are interesting parts.
If you build a house from the trees near here, you can never say
how the day will begin.
In the ground there are roots no one ever sees,
each like a jet of octopus ink dispersing in the wide Atlantic.


From Between Silence and Praise. Copyright Elizabeth Anne Socolow.

© Ragged Sky Press