by Dennis Sampson
Featured Art: Crouching Nude in Shoes and Black Stockings, Back View by Egon Schiele
It took him a lifetime to figure out
he hadn’t the slightest idea
who she was. Rereading
Milton’s Paradise Lost one night,
he elected to set things right. He would recall
what had never dawned on him
in an epithalamion of all their vows,
her face as gray and drawn and haunted now
as that which miraculously appeared
to Milton in his sonnet “Methought I Saw.”
He’d been blind
and completely missed what she’d put up with for so long,
his cigar smoke stinking up the whole house
composing his small diatribes,
his holding court on everything
from Boccaccio to the state of the art.
Hadn’t she once confessed to him
when they were courting,
cuddled in his loft with the fire down to a hush,
she had waited all of her life
to be touched like this? What was that called?
Three days he labored over his encomium
—a litany of his own faux pas—
until he had to admit he could not get it right,
this catalogue which kept coming up
against forgetting absolutely everything from the start.
Originally appeared in NOR 6.
Dennis Sampson was born and raised in South Dakota. The author of seven collections of poems, including Within the Shadow of a Man (Settlement House, 2009) his work has been honored by the National Endowment of the Arts, the North Carolina Council on the Arts and the Alabama Arts Council. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities, including stints as poet in resident at the University of Tennessee, Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.