Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Apartment

The Apartment

People have been living in your home,
the apartment that you rent, for forty years,
fifty years. Who were they. Where did
they go. The apartment remembers them
a little, a kitten sticker on the inside
of the medicine cabinet, a glass turkey
with a divot in its back for a votive candle.
When I moved in to one place, a toaster
tucked in the highest shelf, in the very back.
It was full of crumbs and dust, a record of appetite,
emptiness. A home is our own because
we decide to pour our possessions into
its pockets. It contains us, helps us to know
what we need more of, less of. Go get wood
and bring it in here. And matches,
the fireplace says. When we snap back,
And where might we find some wood,
it’s not even angry. Go to the supermarket,
sweetheart. We obey it. It keeps us apart
from the unpartitioned, cold wilderness.
We want to be who it tells us we are.


  1. Hannah this is beautiful and feels very familiar to me as I have moved many times in my life...I often think about the resonance of the past in the home I live in and the memories my presence will leave behind with each move I make to the next 'home'.

    The second last move I made I did a series of photos before I settled in to record, or perhaps acknowledge the past that had existed in this space I was about to call home for awhile.


  2. I have always thought that same thought wherever I lived and for 10 years I moved once a year...our home though is the same, layers of memories from other people, we are just beginning to remove those slowly...lovely poem Hannah...xoxo

  3. Beautiful. I love the image of the toaster "...full of crumbs and dust, a record of appetite, emptiness." You have captured the feeling so well. Homes always keep the aura of those who previously lived there.

    Have a great week, Hannah!

  4. I like your use of details, especially the toaster and crumbs, and the way you use them to illustrate that "record of appetite, emptiness".

    One of the saddest actions we all have to take is cleaning out the home of someone we've loved.

  5. Thank you: I love the way you have the poem speaking in a moving, uncomplicated voice, one that appears unassuming, but which, over the poem, reveals something of the human condition in its exploration of physical impermanence. And it echoes after reading as well, which is a good quality for a poem to have.

  6. Absolutely brilliant. I think a lot about who lived here before me and what kind of life they lived. I also think about the people who live in our Lake Bluff house. I try not to imagine their life as perfect.

  7. It's funny, but when I move into a new place I like to scrub every nook and cranny to get rid of any traces of previous inhabitants. I don't like to think of them. I want to claim the house, feel the spirit of the house itself.

  8. Hi Hannah,

    For seven years, my husband and I lived in two apartments (first the one bedroom, and then the two bedroom) carved out of a house built in the 1920s. We were fascinated by who might have lived there before us. I used to have dreams about those apartments, long after we moved from there, and all the objects, vases and antiques, that inhabited my imagination, looking at them and examining them, as if they were real.

    I love lines in your poem like these:
    "A home is our own because
    we decide to pour our possessions into its pockets." And also the concept that the home, because of its construction and what it contains (like a fireplace), tells us what to do. "We want to be who it tells us we are." I should listen to my present home, and stop neglecting its potential!


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