Husbands and Poems

May 06, 2015

Photo courtesy Todd Quakenbush

Today is my husband’s birthday. He’s very like the husband in this poem by Pauletta Hansel (though my father is not much like the father). When we were dating in college, my husband typed up and gave me a poem he felt applied to our relationship. I still have that poem, and it still applies. Wishing you a happy birthday, LJ!


My mother likes a man who works. She likes
my husband’s muddy knees, grass stains on the cuffs.
She loved my father, though when weekends came
he’d sleep till nine and would not lift
his eyes up from the page to move the feet
she’d vacuum under. On Saturdays my husband
digs the holes for her new roses,
softening the clay with peat and compost.
He changes bulbs she can no longer reach
and understands the inside of her toaster.
My father’s feet would carry him from chair
to bookshelf, back again till Monday came.
My mother likes to tell my husband
sit down in this chair and put your feet up.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Pauletta Hansel from her most recent book of poems, The Lives We Live in Houses, (Wind Publications, 2011). Poem reprinted by permission of Pauletta Hansel and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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  1. What a special poem your husband gave you - I love that one very much. Being able to share thoughts with each other is so important to a strong relationship and it sounds like you've got one.

  2. Cheryl--Well, a good portion of the time we can. Then there are the times we think the other person is nuts but we love them anyway!