Why Men Don’t Write About Their Wives

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.

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