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Collected Poems

Empty House

Empty House

Now you are gone and there is no longer the laughter of the children,
nor cave smells of fur and food nor crackle of fire.
Now you have ebbed like a tide and left uncovered
the wracks of many ships.

Cold and stagnant this pond with sad weeds cumbering the surface
and small thoughts like newts flitting in the gloom.
I walk through the rooms of this empty house
as a spider climbs through the dry skull of a nobody,
page 92 passing soberly (remember death) as a man come out into rain
from a room full of music,
passing from one room to another and back again:
remember death.

This house is an authentically modern house,
an epitome of our progression from the ape,
from the ape to Cromwell steady going
then upward and onward, soaring.
There is a plug for the vacuum-cleaner, not yet attained to,
and ample room for a piano and a billiard-table
to be purchased later, and much room for books,
outlines of modern knowledge, Shak., etc.
At a touch of the fingers (even a child's or an ape's)
the light snaps on, miracles (Christ!) at tuppence a time
and a cold wind without
or two shillings a month less ten per cent for cash
the windows black and the pane stained with rain.

And the floor is planks and not a floor
and the chimney is bricks and not a chimney
and this room is six planes
enclosing irrelevant chairs and a table
and mats and curtains that do not conceal the bareness.

But when you come back, dead wood shall bud,
warm and human this house shall be,
brick will be brighter, bed more soft,
there will be smells of fur and food
and the scent of the children's bodies.

I shall open the window in the morning
and the valley shall sing before us.