Thursday, August 11, 2011

The House With Nobody in It

Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track 
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black. 
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times,
but I always stop for a minute  And look at the house, 
the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things; 
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings. 
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do; 
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two. 

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass, 
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass. 
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied; 
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside. 

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade. 
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be 
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free. 

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door, 
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known. 

But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife, 
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet, 
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone,that ever your eyes could meet 

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back, 
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

It's been a long time since I thought of the above poem, not for five years at least.  It was a favorite of my ex-husband's aunt, and she knew it by heart...word for word.  I can't tell you how many times I heard it; every time she would call...and then, even when the dementia began setting in, she could not remember what she had for breakfast, but she could remember every word of this poem.

It's been five years since I had seen her.  When her hubby died, her house was sold, and she was whisked off to Florida and never heard from again.  I've been told she totally forgot who we were.   I did love this woman.  She was the only one in that crazy, warped family that accepted me and treated me as if I were the daughter she never had.  

Yesterday we buried her.  I didn't break down until the priest read this poem, and then I remembered.  I remembered how she always stood by my side and defended me, no matter what the other family members would say.  And how she would call me, every day, just to find out how I was doing.  One time I wanted to go to sleep early, so I took the phone off the hook.  Boy, did I ever hear about that one.  I was angry at the time because I was a grown woman and had a right to go to bed whatever time she wished, but now I realize that she was irate with me only because she cared.   

And, oh how this woman loved her animals.  All the cats in her neighborhood knew and loved her for none were turned away.  All of the creatures were fed...squirrels, birds, stray dogs, and even the pigeons.  She was such a special woman.

It pains me that I didn't have a chance to say good-bye, but I can honor her memory in my heart and with the poem that she loved so much.  

Rest in peace, dear Antoinette, rest in peace, and know that you are surely missed.


  1. How fitting that they read this poem at her funeral. Sounds like she spent much time and attention tending to those who needed it. I'm glad you remember her so fondly.

  2. To Antoinette then Mary...May she Rest in Peace.

    The poem really touched me and I think I'm going to save it. I agree with the poem that a new house doesn't have a soul yet. I can remember when we lost our home after my father was laid off at the steel mill many years ago, my little sister was only two years old, but as we were leaving that day, the house was emptied out and I went looking for Penny and here she was with her little head down on the floor of her room crying. I've always felt we left our imprint there.

    I'm happy your Antoinette saw the beautiful spirit you are Mary! Happy too she taught you this awesome poem.


  3. I'll never look at an empty home the same again after reading that poem.
    Sorry for your loss Mary. (((hugs)))

  4. My first time commenting (I think), but have subscribed for quite a few weeks now.

    I just have to say that I had never heard this poem before, but absolutely love it and must mention it on my blog. Thank you for posting it and also for sharing a bit about your relationship with Antoinette who, may I say, sounds a cherished 'ally'.

  5. sounds like a lovely condolences. What a great poem..i have a thing for old abandoned houses and always wonder who lived there and why was it abandoned.

  6. what a lovely way to honor her... and such a precious gift to have to remember her by... I am sure she knew and still knows your heart. The poem is beautiful thank you for sharing...