by: Mary Aldis
- E four
- Live here together
- My three old sisters and I
- In a white little cottage
- With flowers on each side of the path up to the door.
- It is here we eat together
- At eight, one and seven
- All the year round,
- It is here we sew together
- On garments for the Church sewing society
- Here,--behind our fresh white dimity curtains
- That I'll soon have to do up and darn again.
- It is this cottage we mean
- When we use the word Home
- Is it not here we lie down and sleep
- Each night all near together?
- We never meet
- My three old sisters and I.
- We never look into each others' eyes
- We never look into each others' souls
- Or if we do for a moment
- We quickly begin to talk about the jam
- How much sugar to put in and when.
- We run away and hide like mice before the light
- We are afraid to look into each others' souls
- So we keep on sewing, sewing.
- My three old sisters are old
- Very old.
- It is not such a great while since they were born
- Yet they are old.
- I think it is because they will not look and see.
- I am not old
- But pretty soon I will be.
- I was thinking of that when I went to him
- Where he was waiting.
- My sisters had been talking together all the long afternoon
- While I sat sewing and silent,
- Clacking, clacking away while the lilac scent came in at
- And the branches beckoned and sighed.
- This is what they said--
- "How did that paper come into our house?"
- "Fit to be burnt, don't you think?"
- Then the third, "It's a shameless sheet
- To print such a sensual thing."
- The paper lay on the table there, between my three sisters
- With my poem in it,--
- My small happy poem without any name.
- I had been with him when I wrote it and I wanted him again
- The words arose in my heart clamouring for birth--
- And there they were, between my three sisters.
- Each read it in turn
- Holding the paper far off with the tips of her fingers.
- Then they hustled it into the fire
- Giving it an extra poke with the tongs, a vicious poke.
- Then each sister settled back to her sewing
- With a satisfied air.
- I looked at them and I wondered.
- I looked at each one,
- And I went to him that night--
- Where he was waiting.
- My three old sisters are dying
- Though they do not know it.
- They are not dying serenely
- After life is over
- They are just getting dryer and dryer
- And sharper and sharper
- Soon there will not be any more of them at all.
- I am not like them
- I cannot be
- For I have a reason for living.
- While they were pricking their little pale odourless blossoms
- I gathered my great red flower
- And oh I am glad glad,
- For now when the time comes I can die serenely,
- I can die after living.
- But first what is to come?
- I am going to give my three old sisters a shock
- Then what a rumpus there will be!
- They will upbraid and reproach
- And then they will whisper to each other, nodding slowly
- Telling each other it is not theirs to judge.
- So they will become kind and pitiful
- Affirming that I am their sister
- And that they will stick by and see me through.
- But underneath they will be touching me with the lifted tips
of their fingers.
- They would like to hustle me into the fire
- With an extra poke of the tongs.
- Perhaps I will pretend to hang my head,
- Perhaps I will to please them,
- I am very obliging--
- But in my heart I shall be laughing with a great laughter
- A great exaltation.
- Yes they will upbraid and reproach
- In grave and sisterly accents
- And mourn over me,
- One who has fallen,
- Yet I suspect
- As each one goes to her cold little room,
- Deep in her breast she will envy
- With a terrible envy
- The child that is mine
- And the night
- The curious night
- When the sun and the moon and the stars
- Bent down
- And gave me their secrets.
POEMS BY MARY ALDIS
"The Sisters" is reprinted
from Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916. Ed. William
Stanley Braithwaite. New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1916.