Tidy House (Matt. 12:44-45)

By Anthony Esolen - Providence, Rhode Island, USA - Advent/Christmas 2010


There was a woman with a tidy house.

She swept it spotless on a sunny day

To keep the nastiness of flea or mouse

From furrowing over her sufficiency.


She threw her shutters to let in the sun,

For all her mica shone as sharp and clean

As fluted stone in Greece, or Babylon

In the days when her temples stood pristine.


And never a wind-blown hair or withered leaf

Could nestle in a corner to remind her

Of time before the broom, of dust, of grief,

Of the despair that many a night would find her


Sitting alone under the filigree

Of spiders from the rafters.  They were gone!

Her house was tidy, and her heart was free!

Immaculate of the touch of anyone.


That night she dreamed of floors like silver mirrors

In a high city set with gem and spire,

Flashing the heavens in all their spangled errors.

She rose, and sensing something like a fire,


Crept softly down the stairs on slipper-pads.

And she saw seven boys about the table,

Smoking ill-rolled cigars and thumbing cards.

One smelt of fodder and sweepings from the stable,


One dabbled fondly at his greasy piles,

One eyed her leg and broke into big grinning,

One ground his teeth and fumed for all such smiles,

One looked sour-mouthed at what his chum was winning,


One nodded off, his chin upon his vest,

Too dull to tell a seven from a queen,

While the last rascal, sharper than the rest,

Boasted a flush and swept the table clean.


Who turned upon the woman suddenly:

“My dear, let me commend you for your place.

You have prepared it most impeccably.”

And there was striking beauty in his face.


When in the morning she awoke she saw

The tracery of ash throughout the room.

But there she sat until the sun sank low

And never had the heart to lift the broom.


Her old friends, Dust and Grief, returned to call.

People who came to visit always said

That though she couldn’t keep a house at all

The company she kept was not so bad.