I don’t know if I have ever read a more depressing poem than this. I’m adding it to the blog now because of a daydream I had yesterday that made me think of it.
THE REJECTED HUSBAND
by Wendell Berry
After the storm and the new
stillness of the snow, he returns
to the graveyard, as though
he might lift the white coverlet,
slip in beside her as he used to do,
and again feel, beneath his hand,
her flesh quicken and turn warm.
But he is not her husband now.
To participate in resurrection, one
first must be dead. And he goes
back into the whitened world, alive.
So, want to cry yet? Nothing like a good ‘ol “dead wife” poem to kill a mood, huh? A guy in my Dodge group read this a few years back and I’ll always remember his sadness when he read it. He was married, but there was something powerful and resonant in his tone as he read it that made everyone see immediately that there was a real connection between the man and the poem.
The imagery is what makes this so affective (and effective, too!). There is a very clear picture of the graveyard, the stone, the man, and it all comes together perfectly. The poet doesn’t say “he remembers her”; instead, he describes the memory of touching his lost wife. A perfect example of the “show, don’t tell” philosophy of writing.
As for me, I had a terrible daydream yesterday about what I would do if I lost my wife. She didn’t answer the phone when I called her, and that’s not like her at all. So being the eternal worrier that I am, I of course imagined her hit by a bus or a bitten by the all-too-common NJ poisonous viper snake. And that was followed by a series of alternating panic and sorrow, and then the realization that I would be just like the subject of this poem: alone, rejected (by death) and sad to even be alive.
What a depressing post. Sorry.