Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Thomas Burke (1886-1945) was a noted novelist, essayist and short story writer.  His most enduring legacy is the stories he wrote about the Limehouse section of London and its Chinese residents.  His story The Hands of Mr. Ottermole is a classic in the mystery field.  This poem is taken from his book The Song Book of Quong Lee of Limehouse (1920).

I climbed the other day up to the roof
Of the commanding and palatial Home for Asiatics,
And looked across this city at the hour of no-light.
Across the great space of dark I looked,
But the skirt of darkness had a hundred rents
Made by the lights of many people's homes.

My life is a great skirt of darkness,
But human kindliness has torn it through,
So that it shows ten thousand gaping rents
Where the light comes in.

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