Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE SISTERS, by                    
First Line: We four / live here together
Last Line: And gave me their secrets.
Subject(s): Life; Love; Sisters

We 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 picking 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.

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