"The Vacuum" by Howard Nemerov is told from the perspective of an older man who is a widower. He misses his dead wife. He is impacted by her absence, and he sheds light on his feelings through the object of a vacuum cleaner. The title "The Vacuum" also refers to the void left by his wife's absence.
The poem opens with the words "It is so quiet now." The man then states that "the vacuum cleaner sulks in the corner closet." The quiet is referring to the fact that his wife is no longer in the house. The house is also quiet because his wife is no longer there to run the loud vacuum cleaner. The man remembers what a meticulous housekeeper his wife was. When he does turn on the vacuum cleaner, he thinks of his wife and how meticulously she cleaned "in the corner and under the stair." He cannot stand to run the vacuum cleaner because it causes him to remember and miss her.