Rich's poem is about domestic life and how the endless routine of housework can be be unfulfilling and emotionally deadening. The woman of the poem is living with a man. The title suggests that they are "living in sin," or not married. The woman "had thought"—the first words of the poem—that life in her boyfriend's studio would be different. The first seven lines sketch her belief that there would be "no dust upon the furniture of love" to clean, that the pipes would be quiet, the windows clear, and the entire apartment would be a kind of picturesque heaven: the image of the "plate of pears, / a piano with a Persian shawl" is photographic, like something from a magazine.
The poem turns on line seven, when this scene of domestic bliss "had risen" in her mind "at his urging." The is the one instance in the poem where there is a sense of blame or anger: it introduces the next seven lines, which describe the reality of the studio: the stairs "writhing" under the milkman at five am; the dirty dishes in the kitchen in the morning, the...
(The entire section is 373 words.)