Strange house we must keep and fill.

House that eats and pleads and kills.

House on legs. House on fire. House infested

With desire. Haunted house. Lonely house.

House of trick and suck and shrug.

Give-it-to-me house. I-need-you-baby house.

House whose rooms are pooled with blood.

House with hands. House of guilt. House

That other houses built. House of lies

And pride and bone. House afraid to be alone.

House like an engine that churns and stalls.

House with skin and hair for walls.

House the seasons singe and douse.

House that believes it is not a house.

~ Poet laureate Tracy K Smith
Professor at Princeton University and Pulitzer Prize winner


Since publishing my first book over 10 years ago, I work primarily with adult daughters of compromised mothers and, across the board, one unifying characteristic underlines their pain. Deep within the psyche of each wounded daughter is an unspeakable, metaphorical homelessness. In ASH, Tracy Smith captures the visceral vulnerability of living in a female body. A haunting, bone chilling fear that hides behind desire and denial. I’m taking the liberty of interpretation, of course, viewing this poem through the lens of my research on mothers and daughters… always finding evidence.

Nothing quite captures the primitive longing of what I call Mother Hunger better than ASH. The silent hunger in an un-mothered daughter who constructs a “house of lies” to hide the shame. A “house that eats” to numb the pain. The woman who builds a “house of guilt” from love gone by, never quite settled, or sure of why. Much like an “engine that churns and stalls”, her heart stays trapped behind its walls. A “lonely house… afraid to be alone”.

with warmth,
Kelly McDaniel, LPC, NCC, CSAT