Poetry Sunday: Old Wives

I often listen to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. She almost always has interesting guests and interesting conversations with them.
Last week, one of her shows focused on poetry, since April is National Poetry Month. She had three poets as guests and they read some of their poems and recited poems that were meaningful to them.
At the end of the show, Diane read a poem by a friend of hers who was not a famous poet. Her name was Emma Jean (E.J.) Mudd and she was married to journalist Roger Mudd. She was apparently a multi-talented person, a virtual Renaissance woman. She died three years ago.
Of all the poems that were read or recited on Rehm's show, this is the one that struck a chord with me. Possibly because I, too, am an old wife.
Old Wives
by E.J. Mudd
What did we think when we promised
to love and cherish those barely known men
till death did us part – and all that?

I think what we heard was the first set of terms-
for richer, for better, in health.

Who bothered to look through the mist of tulle
at the contrary side of the vows –
for poorer, in sickness, for worse?

Who ventured a question?
How poor? In what sense poor?
How sick? Where sick? For how long?
For worse? Were there limits to worse?

Well, never mind now after all these years.
We’ve seen it from both sides now.

The point is that all of us promised we would,

And some of us actually did.


  1. I really enjoy Diane's show. I listen almost every M-F. I've found some really good authors by listening. Enjoyed this poem ... it hits home.

    1. Yes, I particularly enjoy her literary discussions, too - when she interviews authors or has her monthly "book club" meeting. But this poem was particularly meaningful to me.

  2. Dorothy--Thank you so much for posting my mother's (EJ Mudd's) poem on your blog. Diane Rehm had many requests for it, but it had not yet appeared on in the Internet until after the show. I am not quite an old wife yet but a middle-aged one grateful to have my mother's poem and marriage for inspiration!

    1. It's a wonderful poem. I was happy to learn of it and delighted to feature it. Thank you for your comment.


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