Meditations on a Empty House


Asha Lyons Sumroy delves into her Jewish ethnicity and how Judaism and identification with and responsibility for Israel continues to play an extremely complex role in her life.

Living in Jerusalem, in an intentional community, communally (centrally shared money, shared chores, belongings and responsibility), based on ideology, on making change, on justice, was a whirlwind for Asha having just finished school.

“But it was in these months that I found true partners for change in the world and with them that I forged a home impossible to replace or replicate.”

Our apartment was always dark – never enough windows; until-evening lie-ins. But, even now I can’t describe the dimness that filled the walls when I went back alone, two years after we’d moved out, and used my stolen key to get back into the empty apartment. Let alone the landlords plans to demolish it, the feeling of being somewhere once so full – the only place I’d ever felt truly full and home and empowered – and reliving months of hologram memories, was enough to leave me overwhelmed with the nostalgia and longing that’s rooted it knowing something fundamental to who you are, will never exist again. It was tradition to sign the walls, and these love letters to each other and to the future were so haunting now. This meditation, which I sat on our balcony, in the muggy August heat writing, insists on the crumbling displacement of returning home, to find a void.

The only thing that makes my writing page poetry is that I’m not a performer – I write and hear these lines as they sound read aloud. They should be read aloud – the sounds and embedded rhymes and breaks in and between the lines are what make it sound how I meant it – but whispered, to yourself, or to someone you love.

The Tide - Empty House.jpeg

Meditations on our Empty House

We are written onto these walls

And our love lingers between them

We etched our names into the plaster,

The kitchen, bathrooms, bed frames, doors, in permanent pen ink

Markers as strong as the Tubi 60, back-of-the-throat-burning, Israeli shots we learnt to love in the bar beneath the stone arches

To make sure that whoever lived here after us would know that we were once here, that

We learnt each other’s lives here, that We learnt each other’s bodies here, that ‘It was here in this room on a warm night in May that you became my family’

That at this table, too small for us all to sit around without sticking unwashed thighs together, that we shared food like sharing ourselves,

Unending, sticky, nights

In this bathroom we sang out of tune duets to wake our souls in the morning, taking

Turns with the shampoo

Throwing it clumsily between shower curtains

On these sofas we administered wine to cope with 2017’s election, projected onto

These walls from England – two hours behind and nothing near what we know of home now

This bookshelf shared our favourite stories, aside worn-cornered manifestos

This bed we shared the nights we needed to be held

The nights we needed to, we fought

Then tore up the tears with laughter and, eventually,

Song, unending melody

We are written onto these walls

We wrote ourselves there to preserve our love between them

But continents divide

And so do cities


See I kept my key

In the secret hope I’d come back and find you all

We lived here, once, I know

But the signatures we left to mark memory territory are just one generation of graffiti

The family after us have been and gone and their narrative fills the space between ours and the hole one of them must have kicked through the kitchen wall

I know we walked this floor, I’m sure

I can see the footprints mapped in dirt we forgot to clean

We cigarette-burnt ourselves into these plastic chairs on the balcony

The smoke leaving lips, unending wisps, echoed by

This hair wound up onto the shower wall Im sure it must be one of yours

Here we spoke of revolution

Here we lived in revolution, see I kept my key so I could come back to find it

But I’m sat alone in an empty house

With all of our names scribbled in fading ink on the walls.