Joyce Kilmer

(1886-1918 / New Jersey)

The House with Nobody in It


Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Brenda Brockway (1/9/2010 7:41:00 PM)

    I actually had to memorize Trees, also by Joyce Kilmer for girl scouts as a kid. I heard this on an old rerun of The Waltons and fell in love with it. It hangs in the living room of my house, which I found on Halloween when all of the other houses on a block where we were trick or treating were well lit and lived in. It stood alone and lonely. (Report) Reply

  • Dorothy Bernard (1/22/2009 3:01:00 PM)

    Although the name Joyce may lead some to think that Joyce Kilmer was a woman, he was indeed a man. I recited this poem at my school for a program in the school auditorium at the age of 11 and still remember it word for word now at the age of 59. I find his poems to be truly beautiful and inspiring. (Report) Reply

  • Mertice Weeks (12/13/2007 9:23:00 PM)

    I first heard this poem when I was in the 4 th grade and am now 59 years old. It is my favorite of all poems written by anyone. I absolutely love it! (Report) Reply

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