Since 1996 Volume XXI
Sue Ellen Thompson
The Empty House
House that we bought just a month before
we were married; after the wedding, the rooms
unfolded anew. House where I brought
the baby straight from the hospital, sat
at the dining room table, unbuttoned my blouse.
House of the Christmas Eve dinners,
my niece and her boyfriend together
on the piano bench, which to this day
bears a mark from the heat of their thighs.
House of the homework assignments, the three of us
up half the night making two-inch-tall tepees
of bark from the birch tree and little plaid bedrolls
cut from an old flannel shirt. House
so toxic with anger, a teenager’s
venomous mouth, that for three years
we dared not have anyone over for dinner.
Then, when she left us for college,
a silence so vast
we inflicted our surplus endearments
on a long-suffering 12-year-old cat.
House of near-human sounds—
bone-creaks and moaning, sighing and wailing
in storms. House of our long years of marriage,
your limbs entwined around mine
like ivy around the round stones
of the stone walls surrounding the yard.
House of the woodpile, the woodshed,
the canvas wood carrier carried
six times a day from the shed
to the wood stove, the smell of felled maple
and oak. House I came home to after
my mother died, put down
my suitcase and lay on the bed
with my coat still on, hands
folded over the knot of my sorrow
as sleep closed its massive green door.
—Sue Ellen Thompson
KARREN LaLONDE ALENIER.