Another Lonely House

so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache

Sonnet LXV ~ Pablo Neruda.

Once occupied, a house transforms quite cheerfully
to home, personified in perpetuity.
Deserted then, it wails and calls through all
the doors and walls. And with West winds
the saddest dialogue reverbs
through empty space.

At one such place, a three-legged dog
vanished in thick undergrowth.
We picnicked at a paint-flaked table
in that late spell of heat. Drowsily, the garden
let slip petal and leaf; yellow roses past their best
still kept the arch of bygone trellises.
And in the midst, a house, half- tumbledown.
Unassuming, unadorned, growing out of limestone
like a great grey tree. And trees there were too;
Poplar, pine and two scrub apples; a washing line
between, half-pegged and rock-a-bying
in the breeze. From the letter box
some scraps of baby clothes. We knocked.

No one came of course but I’ve returned
in dreams, as though we parted there
when swallows flew these shores
that mid-September. Inside, a length of corridors.
Shut doors; some locked, some open to the touch
some I rattle like a desperate spectre.
Pursued, pursuant, calling: “Grandmother”, “Grandmother”
and on a gate-leg table, one egg with buttered toast.
Close by some knitting, pale and mauve,
a scattering of humbugs. The grate is cold
and up from the rag hearth-rug
her little dog whimpers and limps from sight.

Despite these frequent nighttime flights
I rarely catch you in my den of memories.
Am subsisting now in a solitary scene
the way a new house cracks with settlement.
Attendant on footfalls, watchful at the casement.
Not aching, but waiting.

For my Poetics prompt, we conjure a house that we've never personally known and give it substance, literal and/or metaphorical: Outside Looking In

42 thoughts on “Another Lonely House

  1. This is incredibly poignant, Laura ❤️ you have packed so much emotion in this poem.. intricate details such as “Drowsily, the garden let slip petal and leaf; yellow roses past their best still kept the arch of bygone trellises,” and “but I’ve returned in dreams, as though we parted there when swallows flew these shores that mid-September,” give the poem hues and make it personal for the reader .. sigh.. gorgeously rendered! ❤️

  2. “Drowsily, the garden
    let slip petal and leaf; yellow roses past their best
    still kept the arch of bygone trellises.”

    These lines caught me and they’re beautiful. This poem is very poignant and haunting to me with how it echoes something long gone and with time, how it ages and turns into something we may not have expected from the outside (or at all, really). This is great at relying on the observer–almost as if they lived in that house, but as a ghost watching it fade around them. Maybe they used to live there a lifetime ago. I also adored the final lines, they’re quite anticipating and chilling in their effect. ❤ ❤

    1. as so often Lucy you give some very generous feedback- the poem slips between dream and reality, between the external and personification. With the narrative of observer, the reader is able to see some of this I hope!

  3. You’ve painted a very detailed picture with concrete vivid images. Around that swirls those happy dreams of remembering loved ones. The ending gets me where “Not aching, but waiting.” To me that suggests that sooner or later the one you want to visit will. I love your poem. You make it look easy.

      1. It’s better not to think about how challenging it will be when we’re dreaming up these prompt challenges 🙂

  4. This was exactly the theme I’ve been playing with all day on your prompt–not just how a house becomes a home, but the reverse as well, or the psuedo-reverse of when does /your/ (old) house become someone else’s home.

    This is so lovely I half feel like I don’t need to write it anymore! (This is why I should never read the entries before finishing the write).

  5. kaykuala

    Once occupied, a house transforms quite cheerfully
    to home, personified in perpetuity.
    Deserted then, it wails and calls through all
    the doors and walls.

    Great opening Laura, good observation. A house is a home definitely. Even if occupied it may not be home as neglect can be dastardly a weak human trait.

    Hank

  6. You captured and so eloquently relayed the nightmare that surely was a dream-come-true for the family that occupied it. Called it home. Once in a story.
    Thanks for sharing, Laura.

  7. Despite these frequent nighttime flights
    I rarely catch you in my den of memories.

    This is brimming with emotions and history, Laura. Each line moves fluidly and also moves the heart.

  8. Childhood houses take residence in dreams — mine, at least — are how inchoate feelings find structure and substance and reiteration if not quite knowledge — This so so tangibly woven, delightful and pungent details of a house out there and in here. I’ve always thought it was my heart. Great response to the challenge and great challenge …

    1. all symbolic of course Brendan in dreams though even the dreamer has to construct from external references – this poem that kind of mish-mash plus personification and I am grateful for your praise

    1. yes I suppose its a kind of frozen time waiting for the next period of animation when humans move in – it sums up grief in many ways too hence the personification

  9. A lot to like in here Laura, particularly that clothes line “rock-a-bying”. It could just swing but rock-a-bying is so much better, it creates motion in the centre of the poem. Also that dog limping, again that movement, it wouldn’t be as vivid if the dog didn’t limp.

  10. I don’t have much to add to the comments you’ve already received. Beautiful, haunting, this brought tears.

  11. Love all the detail in this, Laura. It brings the reader inside the house. e.g. the color of the knitting,
    the washing line, and the deserted table holding one egg with buttered toast. Outstanding!

    1. am late because I’ve been away from the computer bu thank you for your comment as I worked hard on getting the right balance for the details

  12. I love the vivid detailed imagery you’ve evoked with you poem. It feels effortless like stream of consciousness.

    I especially liked
    “And in the midst, a house, half- tumbledown.
    Unassuming, unadorned, growing out of limestone”

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