“My Best Friend’s Wife” by Jason Olsen

Jason Olsen


I wish I was in love with my best friend’s wife.
Oh, the tragedy I’d get to be part of.
No one would ever know, of course,
this secret forever locked inside—
but how utterly and painfully romantic,
something out of a Shakespearean tragedy
or, at the very least, ’70s rock.
Every time I would see my best friend’s wife,
something inside me would suffer and die.
How wonderful! I would spend my time
trying to not think of her and writing poems
not unlike this one that I would never dare let anyone see.
Oh, my best friend’s wife and I would never be together—
how tragic and powerful and utterly profound.

But I am not in love with my best friend’s wife.
My best friend is unmarried—divorced,
in fact, and there is nothing wonderful and tragic
about being in love with your best friend’s ex-wife.
I think of that mythical and magical moment
where I approach my best friend and I say,
“Best friend, I am and have forever been in love
with your wife,” and compare it to the moment
where I approach him and say, “Best friend,
I am and have forever been in love with your exwife”
and I think of the two different reactions
I would get from those two possible moments
and, even though he may someday remarry,
I realize that I will not suffer the beautiful tragedy
of being in love with my best friend’s wife anytime soon
and I realize even further that this is entirely his fault.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011


Jason Olsen: “I currently live with my wife and dog in Price, Utah, where I teach writing and literature at Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah. This poem isn’t specifically traced to any real ‘best friend’ (though I’ve insinuated as much to two close friends) and is a comic riff on reality vs. fantasy. I think the repetition toward the end of the poem works well to emphasize the comic element, but the tragedy is still center stage. In fact, I repeat the words ‘tragedy’ and ‘tragic’ in an effort to ask the question: can something be tragic if the speaker is constantly trying to remind himself of how tragic it ought be?”

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