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 the window
      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 and sadly
      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.

"The Sisters" is reprinted from Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916. Ed. William Stanley Braithwaite. New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1916.




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