The Vacuum by Howard Nemerov

Posted: December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Vacuum

By 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.
I liked this poem because I liked how the whole poem is a huge metaphor about the poets life. The vacuum sucking out the dirt is like how his mom’s death has kind of sucked the life out of him. The dirt that is left is like the memories that are left of his mom in the house. Thankfully, I can’t relate to his pain, but I can see how that can be really hard on a person because your parents are the most important people in your life and losing one would be the worst feeling ever.
1. I liked this line a lot because he is comparing the bag of the vacuum being “limp as a stopped lung” to his “Slovenly life”, his “dog-dead youth”. This is probably because of his mom died, so now he is moping around his house.

“Its bag limp as a stopped lung, its mouth
Grinning into the floor, maybe at my
Slovenly life, my dog-dead youth.”
2. This is another line I really liked because there’s double meaning, he’s again talking about his mom’s death, how he “can’t bear to see the bag swell like a belly”, talking about his mom’s soul going into the vacuum, so he can’t bear to see him mom’s soul go. This is also clever because when a vacuum has a lot of dirt, the bag swells up.
“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”
3. The last line I liked was “I know now how life is cheap as dirt” because he stays with the dirt vacuum reference and he’s also venting about how life is cheap because his mom died.
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