The Sick Wife


"The Sick Wife" is the seventh song of William Bolcom's song cycle Briefly It Enters, which sets nine poems of Jane Kenyon. Ned Rorem has also set this text in a song by the same title.


The audio recording of "The Sick Wife" from Briefly It Enters, provided in the audio playlist to the right, is made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. The performers are the 2012 SongFest Sorel Fellow Rachel Schutz, soprano, and Tomasz Lis, piano, and the performance took place at SongFest 2012 at The Colburn School. To listen, please click on the track name itself.

Photo: Rachel Schutz and Tomasz Lis performing "The Sick Wife," photo courtesy of SongFest

The Sick Wife

The Sick Wife
by Jane Kenyon

The sick wife stayed in the car
while he bought a few groceries.
Not yet fifty,
she had learned what it’s like
not to be able to button a button.

It was the middle of the day—
and so only mothers with small children
or retired couples
stepped through the muddy parking lot.

Dry cleaning swung and gleamed on hangers
in the cars of the prosperous.
How easily they moved—
with such freedom,
even the old and relatively infirm.

The windows began to steam up.
The cars on either side of her
pulled away so briskly
that it made her sick at heart.

Audio PLaylist