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                          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



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