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New Widow

Wind scatters leaves as I approach the house.
The geranium he hung lies on the floor.
The same porch board’s loose. The coir mat sheds.
I fumble for the key and push at the door
that opens to guitar amps, music books
and cardboard boxes left by the man
who asked me not to touch his clothes
or toss the newspapers till he came home
from the hospital, sorted through the stuff
once and for all to organize his life.

About the poet:

Elizabeth Gaffney teaches writing and literature at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, NY, where she holds the rank of SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor. She has published poems in literary journals and magazines. She is writing a book on grief, through which she hopes to offer strategies and comfort to people who suffer loss.

About the poem:

“My husband died of a pulmonary embolism two days after surgery. He was fifty-six. I wrote this poem in the autumn weeks after his sudden death. Coming home to an empty house shocked me every single day. He died alone, and our three children and I had to pick up what he left. There was no closure.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"

About the Poem


13 thoughts on “New Widow”

  1. Elizabeth Gaffney

    Thank you for writing the comments. I am moved by your words and grateful for encouragement. Thanks to PULSE editors for providing this opportunity. –Elizabeth Gaffney

  2. Thank you Liz. Alone isn’t about where you live, or if someone is in the house with you, or how many people love you. It is about the one that isn’t there any more. I look forward to reading your book.

  3. I survived a PE. Today I was feeling down about life in general, my health, in particular. This poem lifted me and made me thankful my husband didn’t have to come home to the bed I don’t make, the books I save, the hard copy chapters of the book in progress. Dealing with my own fears, I never thought about his. I’ll experience life differently for this poem.

  4. Oh, what a moving, moving poem! It has to be the best I have ever read about being alone after a husband’s death.

    All good thoughts go to Elizabeth Gaffney, and I will look forward to the book on grief that she’s writing.

    Barbara Y.

  5. tish valter pearl


    I’m so sorry for your loss. Your poem is heartbreaking and beautiful, and you’ve moved me to tears.
    Loving thoughts from one of your classmates at MBM.

  6. Marianne Lonsdale

    I am so sorry for your loss. The poem so spoke to me, I think it’s lovely and says so much. Visuals filled with emotion. Thank you

  7. Wind scatters leaves … . From the very beginning of this little poem, there is sound and there is image to foreshadow what follows. You had me in the first three words. Well done.

  8. debbie schneider

    This is a beautiful poem written by my friend of almost fifty years, which captures the shocking loss of a kind and gentle man.
    Thank you, Liz, for sharing your pain with others who have experienced loss.
    Love, Debbie

  9. This poem took me right into the poet’s experience and took my breath away, Going into that house expresses his loss so effectively. Excellent, pwerful poem.

    A note on the haiku in this issue, too. Perfect!

  10. Elizabeth,
    I met you at a conference (I no longer remember which one) and you told me you were working on this book. Your poem was a body blow for me.. searing. It completely captures sudden loss of a partner. I look forward to your book.
    Thank you,

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