The Vacuum

By Howard Nemerov 1920–1991 Howard Nemerov
The house is so quiet now
The vacuum cleaner sulks in the corner closet,   
Its bag limp as a stopped lung, its mouth   
Grinning into the floor, maybe at my
Slovenly life, my dog-dead youth.

I’ve lived this way long enough,
But when my old woman died her soul
Went into that vacuum cleaner, and I can’t bear   
To see the bag swell like a belly, eating the dust   
And the woolen mice, and begin to howl

Because there is old filth everywhere
She used to crawl, in the corner and under the stair.   
I know now how life is cheap as dirt,   
And still the hungry, angry heart   
Hangs on and howls, biting at air.

Howard Nemerov, “The Vacuum” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

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Poet Howard Nemerov 1920–1991

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Home Life, Death, Living, Relationships

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 Howard  Nemerov

Biography

Howard Nemerov was a highly acclaimed poet often cited for the range of his capabilities and subject matter, "from the profound to the poignant to the comic," James Billington remarked in his frequently quoted announcement of Nemerov's appointment to the post of United States poet laureate. A distinguished professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 1969 to 1990, Nemerov wrote poetry and fiction that managed to engage . . .

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SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Home Life, Death, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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