Ode to Houseguests



The person she was yesterday
may be as removed

tomorrow or ten years from now

as the photo in a high school yearbook
that marks a square inch
on the growth chart of her life.

Her facial features remain consistent
as landmarks on terrain that shifts
its rocks and vegetation but holds firm
its patch of desert or plains.

Far greater are differences in messages
she’d write today compared to notes she wrote
in margins next to likenesses of friends;
the frothy optimism in her small cup of words—
sipped then as casually as morning tea stirred
sweet with cream and sugar—could not be brewed
in the kettle of old age boiled dry by disappointment.


At seventy her body has housed
ten thousand different guests—
rowdy callers and complacent ones,
debaters, gardeners, teachers and priests—
some who chose to step into their own coffins
and others who were shoved.

And yet without the duels and disputes and
disappointments that diverse houseguests
produce, the great amalgamation of the soul
could not create the single pencil stroke
that scores the circumference of a life
and renders it complete.

The saddest part of all would be
if even a single guest should leave
without a mark left firmly on the soul—
like her writings in the yearbook,
an epitaph to she who was:
she who swore and carried grudges
in her purse, she who bruised the hearts
of others while bloodying her own,
and she who shone, at times, like fireworks
in a celebratory sky.

When her circle is finished
and mourners gather memories
in the church collection plate,
let no righteousness be proclaimed
or judgment cast on any of the occupants
who roomed within:

whether lodger left
a smudge of shadow
or arrow of light—
there is no difference.


Sarah Stecher is a retired Associate Professor of English at Tulsa Community College, where she taught and led annual writing workshops for nearly twenty years. From 2006 to 2013, she co-edited TCC’s previous journal for creative writing, Outside the Lines. Her poetry has appeared in Nimrod International Journal and other publications, and she has won first and/or second place in local and regional writing contests, including the Tulsa City-County Library’s Adult Creative Writing Contest, for her poetry, short fiction, and informal essays. In 2018, Stecher performed a poetry reading at the Tulsa Botanic Garden fundraiser. She resides in Tulsa and continues to write as a hobby.

Dr. Greg Stone is Associate Vice President for Academic & Campus Operations at Tulsa Community College. He is also a landscape painter whose work has been exhibited across the U.S. He’s a member of the American Impressionist Society, the Pastel Society of America, and the Oklahoma Pastel Society.