All I Know is that I Built this House

James Tipton


All I know is that I built this house

in order to dream, and it only happened

after years of gathering, pocket by pocket,

a little earth here and there until

I had enough at last to put a house upon

and some earth still left to fill the heart

when dawn came knocking at the door.


I built this house with sea and desert canyons,

with the words of ordinary people,

with autumns without money,

with hands dusted with dark flour,

with old hats and rain and honey,

and with the sturdy smiles of the poor.


I built this house with the fragrances

of all the women I have ever loved,

and while I was working high in the air,

I remembered how they arrived,

one by one, in secret, offering me

wine bottles filled with rosy poems.


I think now that I can entertain gypsies

and peasants and set up a mail box

that receives only poems, and I can

have pot lucks for indomitable poets

and closet saints; and be sure to bring

a singing casserole, and wear shoes

that can leap out of the world.


James Tipton lives in Chapala, in the tropical mountains of southern Mexico, where he writes poetry and enjoys village life.  His work is widely published, including credits in The Nation, South Dakota Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Greensboro Review, Esquire, FIELD, International Poetry Review, Christian Science Monitor, Mountain Gazette, American Literary Review, El Ojo del Lago, Lake Chapala Review, Living at Lake Chapala, and Mexico Connect.   His most recent collection of poems, Letters from a Stranger, with a Foreword by Isabel Allende (Conundrum Press, 1998), won the 1999 Colorado Book Award in Poetry.