Judith Roche

The Husbands


I married them for all the wrong reasons.
One for sex, another for a boat,
though the boat wasn’t for me
but for the son left behind
from the sex I married the first one for.
But it was the daughter I carried inside
when I married the first one.
There were others but they
didn’t quite count as husbands.

The third I didn’t even marry.
He read me poems in bed
and left little behind, nothing of any value.
But the pain turned out about the same.
And then there was my daughter,
steady, there through all of it,
watching me with blue owl eyes,
thinking, is this the way you do it?

We had boat enough to teach us
of the sea, the beauty of fish,
the son’s love for water.
The first left me my daughter and my son,
both, my dawn, noon, sunset, and night.

The husbands are all far away now,
two into that great good night–
strange to have outlived them.
The third, off in his own mysteries.
They surface in my dreams,
sometimes even the others join in,
as lions, as kings, as husbands.
They all blend together, vivid,
purring loudly and shape-shifting.
I love them – or him –
the one Great Husband,
for whom
I am still a wife.


Judith Roche is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Wisdom of the Body, an American Book Award winner, which was also nominated for a Pushcart. She has published widely in various journals and magazines, and has poems installed on several Seattle area public art projects, including  installations at the Brightwater Treatment Plant in King County. She has written extensively about our native salmon and edited First Fish, First People, Salmon Tales of the North Pacific and has salmon poems installed at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle. She has been Distinguished Northwest Writer-in-Residence at Seattle University, has taught at Cornish College of the Arts, and currently teaches at Richard Hugo House and around the state for the Humanities Washington Inquiring Mind series.