PRINT May 1997



Whose house is this?

Whose night keeps out the light

In here?

Say, who owns this house?

It’s not mine. I had another, sweeter, brighter

With a view of lakes crossed in painted boats;

Of fields wide as arms open for me.

This house is strange.

Its shadows lie.

Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key?

—Toni Morrison, “Whose House is This?” 1992

WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be at home in the world? Home may not be where the heart is, nor even the hearth. Home may be a place of estrangement that becomes the necessary space of engagement; it may represent a desire for accommodation marked by an attitude of deep ambivalence toward one’s location. Home may be a mode of living made into a metaphor of survival: Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key?

The general drift of Morrison’s lyric may evoke the precarious political displacements, the poignant psychological and cultural disjunctions, that too

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