Longfellow’s Wife

by Ken Ashworth
The Waters
First Place, June 2021
Judged by Sarah Carleton

For years, she choked back
the dust of domesticity, the
indignity of birthing six children,

the annoyance at strangers
in her parlor with gifts of
gold, frankincense and myrrh.

She was only a woman after all.
And when she had enough, she
erupted in flame, charged up

the stairs and would have taken
him with her but he beat back
the fire with his hands and face.

"Longfellow's Wife" flares like a lit match. The poet conveys, in a few well-chosen words, the suppressed fury of a woman relegated to the role of helpmeet. Within this spare narrative are auditory gems—particularly, "dust of domesticity" and "…enough / erupted in flame, charged up." And Longfellow's desperation in the last line hits the reader hard because it is so understated. --Sarah Carleton