Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Killing the Home

How does one kill the home? Is the home like a person and can be killed with one fatal blow? What's the afterlife of a home demoted back to house?

In Ted Kooser's poem "Abandon Farmhouse," the reader is led through the remains of a building that was once a home. The evidence of this home are all left behind. There are toys, and clothes and wallpaper. Fields and foods. The unknown narrator gives no detail of what happened only of what is left, the rest is up for the reader to imagine. 

This poem is troubling in many ways. The idea that a home can become physically broken is jarring to readers. As someone who sits in their comfy bed surrounded by loved ones and a pet, the thought of having to leave not only the home by all my possessions behind makes me more uncomfortable than I would like to admit. If I had to leave, would I be leaving a house or a home behind? Does my presence turn this two storied building into a home? I would say yes, to some degree, but more importantly, how I feel about this place is what makes it home. I lived on a college campus far away from the house that i loved and for a very long time and never once did I call my dorm room "home." So, since I believe that my love and comfort  here make this house my home, then the house is killed when those things are taken away. 

However one has to think about the death of the home and when it occurs. Some may say that the home was killed when  people leave. Forced out due to dire circumstances--unable to work, failure to provide, chased out by the community. In Kooser's poem, the reader is spared the easy way out of thinking they were starving since there are jars of food left in the house, so the reader really has to think deeper about the possibilities that drove the family out. 

No matter the cause, one has to imagine that there may have been days leading up to this. Some will say that the home is killed when there is no love in the building anymore; when sorrow grabs hold of the foundation and does not let go as it creeps up the brick and permeates the walls until it affects all the souls in the dwelling. Others will say it dies when the people leave and give up their fight against the building; they pack their bags and take that final step out of their home and leave behind them house.

No matter how the home dies, it is important to know that it can die. Just like a person it can cease to be and become relegated to past tense, "I used to live there," " I loved that house." Once one dies, it's very hard to regain the title of alive, the same goes for a home, once it becomes a house, it's a fight to become a home again, and sometimes the only choice is to find another.


  1. You (and TJ in his post) make some great points about the way poetry can challenge the way we think about the world around us, which is not always comfortable. I think you're question "Does my presence turn this two storied building into a home?" is a really interesting one to consider as we keep reading. In Dove's "Daystar," we see a woman who is still present in the house as are all of the family's belongings, but that house seems oppressive and she wants to escape--so is that house a home?

  2. I have never thought about a house dying before. The idea that an object can die is an interesting thought. Is the only way for a house to die to have been previously brought to life through love? So, if a house is lacking love can it ever be alive? And therefore, can it die? Maybe love is the only key to making anything come alive. Another thought that this blog encourages is the question of whether a house can come back to life. If an abandoned house is discovered and someone moves in and gives it the love it deserves, can it reject the idea of immortality and once again have life? I like it believe it is possible.

    1. I like to feel that same way. I hope that another family can find a house and turn it into a home again. So maybe i missed the mark on saying that a home can die... maybe it doesn't die until it is torn down. Maybe abandoned houses are just in a state of slumber, waiting and waiting for life to be breathed into them again. Kind of like a person in a coma. They aren't gone, but they can't do anything until they are awakened.