In this poem, Theodore Roethke examines the poetic process by reflecting on himself as a living and breathing "Open House" of sorts through the emotions he pours out onto each page.
Roethke often explores the duality of complex emotions; this theme is explored in the commonly-studied "My Papa's Waltz." That same feeling appears in the very first line of this poem: "My secrets cry aloud." Through juxtaposition, the speaker (who is most likely Roethke himself) shows the difficult process of writing: taking something deeply personal and conveying its significance to a wide audience. By doing so, nothing is left secretive. All is laid bare.
"Tongue" is used as metonymy in the second line to represent verbal speech. The speaker has no need for literal speech because his heart "keeps open house" through the poetry he writes. This stanza follows an ABABCC rhyme pattern with almost perfect rhymes. Like the other two stanzas, the lines follow an easy iambic trimeter. The rhyme pattern and cadence allow for the poem to slip into a melodic reading of unobstructed truths; the speaker fully intends to keep his language "strict and pure," to borrow ahead from the final stanza.
The easy rhyme and cadence flow into the next stanza, mimicking the lines of the first stanza with a DEDEFF pattern of rhyme. In this stanza, Roethke plays with the idiom of being "chilled to the bone" to describe his poetry as leaving him "naked to the bone." Through this wordplay, he strips away his literal, outer self as he navigates his emotions through poetry. Through writing poetry, he hides nothing. He spares nothing, leaving no anguish undiscovered, as it is all "foreknown" anyway through deeply personal self-revelation. In this way, poetry becomes almost prophetic in his journey, linking the first and last lines in this stanza to reflect a spiritual journey, further emphasized by the alliteration of "spirit spare."
The final stanza deviates from the perfect rhymes of the first two stanzas. Although the rhyme pattern is the same, GHGHII, the truth/mouth and cry/agony pairings are not as clean. This reflects the loss of carefully controlled tone evident in the final stanza. For in this stanza, the speaker narrates that which helps his poetry endure: anger. In his quest for speaking truth, he navigates emotions which are not beautiful and do not lend themselves to an easy cadence; they sometimes leave the speaker in "witless agony." This is contrasted with language that the speaker says he keeps "pure," reflecting the truth of experience regardless of how vulnerable the revelations leave him.
Roethke explores the process of laying oneself bare on a page with a rather objective tone, neither romanticizing the process nor seeking to elicit sympathy. In a matter-of-fact way, he seeks to explain how his craft leaves him completely open, with all his truths exposed.