The Man Who Married Magdalene

By Louis Simpson 1923–2012 Louis Simpson
The man who married Magdalene   
Had not forgiven her.
God might pardon every sin ...   
Love is no pardoner.

Her hands were hollow, pale, and blue,   
Her mouth like watered wine.
He watched to see if she were true   
And waited for a sign.

It was old harlotry, he guessed,   
That drained her strength away,   
So gladly for the dark she dressed,   
So sadly for the day.

Their quarrels made her dull and weak   
And soon a man might fit
A penny in the hollow cheek
And never notice it.

At last, as they exhausted slept,   
Death granted the divorce,   
And nakedly the woman leapt   
Upon that narrow horse.

But when he woke and woke alone   
He wept and would deny
The loose behavior of the bone   
And the immodest thigh.

Louis Simpson, “The Man Who Married Magdalene” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1988)

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Poet Louis Simpson 1923–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Death, Living, Relationships, Desire, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Ballad

 Louis  Simpson

Biography

Poet, editor, translator, and critic Louis Simpson was born in 1923, in Jamaica, to Scottish and Russian parents. A contemporary of Confessional poets like Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath, Simpson’s early work followed a familiar arc. In the New York Times Book Review, critic David Orr noted its highlights: “Simpson has followed a path lined with signposts sunk so deep in our nation's poetic terra firma that . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Death, Living, Relationships, Desire, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Ballad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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