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Poem: "Barbara's Technicolor Dreamhouse" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Barbara's Technicolor Dreamhouse"

This poem came out of the June 4, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from zianuray and wyld_dandelyon.  It also fills the #18 Idyll slot in the Rainbowfic Moonlight list.  This poem has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette.

Barbara's Technicolor Dreamhouse

Barbara has never had a house,
but she's always had a home.

She used to tell people about it,
believing it was the house
she'd grown up in before
being placed in foster care --

but then people looked at her funny
and said, no, she was taken
from a ratty old trailer,
so she has learned not to say anything,
and especially, not to compare
her dreamhouse to the long string
of dilapidated apartments in which she lived.

Barbara ambles through her days,
going along with whatever it is
that people want from her now,
because it's easier than rocking the boat;
but she lives for her nights,
when her dreams take her home.

It's always the same house,
even when it looks different --
the paint changes, even the shape,
but there is always a witches' tower
on the front left corner as seen from the inside.

Sometimes it's in the suburbs,
other times in a city,
and once so far out in the boonies
that the ravens got lost trying to find it
and didn't show up until almost dawn.

That's another way
to recognize the dreamhouse:
the ravens, thirteen of them,
one for each resident.

Because here's the other amazing thing:
Barbara has a family,
not the sad excuse
of the foster family of the month,
but a real  family full of people who
take care of each other as best they can.

Some of them are older,
some close to her age,
and two even younger.
They all love each other, although
none of them are related by blood.
That's all right: they know,
better than anyone,
that blood isn't what makes a family.

This is why Barbara
rarely pays attention
to the people who bob and eddy
around her in the waking world:
those places in her life
are already full.

This is why Barbara
does not care about the crummy schools
or the dingy little rooms of the day.
They're not where she really lives.

As she grows older,
Barbara gets a bit more time
to herself, a bit more freedom
to explore -- and off she goes,
looking for a house that reminds her of home.

And one day she finds it,
sitting on the corner at the end of a street,
with pink and yellow roses spilling over
the tidy white fence onto the sidewalk,
and one of the ravens -- her  raven --
cawing at her from the big oak tree out front.

The witches' tower gleams with a warm welcome,
candlelight spilling from its white-curtained windows,
and Barbara knows it's getting late because
the shadows are deepening around the roses,
and really, it's time for little girls to be indoors.

So she does what she's wanted to do her whole life:
she runs up the walk to the white front door
and twists the familiar brass handle in her hand,
and shouts as she does every night:
"Hi, everybody!  I'm home!"

And she is, and they are --
her family comes trampling down the stairs,
warm and real in a whole new way,
and here are more of them coming in
from the back yard which she's never seen,
so of course Barbara wants to see it.

"You can, now," says Catherine,
the oldest of them, her arm draped around Jonathan,
who is almost as old as herself.
"You can, but if you go out the back door,
then you can never go out the front door again."

This, then, is the weird little secret
about the division of labor in the household:
how the older people tend the back yard
while the younger people tend the front.

Barbara does not hesitate:
she runs to the back door
and dashes out into the twilight
lit by sparkling fireflies.

There is a moon garden here,
heavy with white and blue flowers,
their perfume sweet on the evening breeze,
and beyond it a little pond full of quick silver fish,
a large garden draped in shadows, its velvety idyll
ending in an orchard with rows of fruit trees

and far away, in the distance,
a line of mountains making a ragged fringe
along the bottom of the star-studded sky.

It is beautiful.
Barbara wants to explore, she does --
but she wants, even more,
to go back inside to the family
that she never has to leave again.
The house hums quietly to itself,
happy that it has managed to bring
another changeling safely under its wings.

The old blood runs thin but sometimes it wakens still,
and the hollow hill may have been abandoned once
but has never abandoned its people.
It seeks out their descendents even now,
in the misty borderland where dreams
touch the very edge of Faerie,
calling them softly home.

And sometimes ... they come.

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14 comments or Leave a comment
eseme From: eseme Date: June 9th, 2013 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, that is a really awesome poem. It feels like it is a few neighborhoods over from Monster House... or something.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 9th, 2013 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)


This probably would fit into that setting, come to think of it.
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: June 9th, 2013 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
What a sweet story!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 9th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this.
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: June 9th, 2013 05:24 am (UTC) (Link)
This is wonderful! Thank you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 9th, 2013 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: June 9th, 2013 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gave me chills! Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 9th, 2013 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you found this so moving.
cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: June 9th, 2013 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
It reminded me of Monster House, too.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 9th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)


I have added this poem in the "Extras" under the Monster House series, as belonging to the same setting.
rowyn From: rowyn Date: June 11th, 2013 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
D'aww! I love that she gets to come home in the waking world too.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 11th, 2013 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this.

Yes, it's an important turning point in the story. Sometimes, dreams can come true.
From: technoshaman Date: June 15th, 2013 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yes, yes they do.

Nice twist! I thought you were going someplace entirely different... very Rod-Serling-esque, and yet, that last stanza demands a female voice, reading out the denouement... :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 15th, 2013 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I'm happy that this worked for you.
14 comments or Leave a comment