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Why'd You Bring That?

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Night is falling, finally. The children are quiet.
Finally. Once more I seek the relative solitude
Of this room and my sketchbook. I flip past ferns
And flowers to my friend, not only sketched,
But also painted, true to life, her sardonic look,
Her dark blue spencer, her (I shouldn't say it)
Ridiculous hair. I can't think of a single lady

I've ever met who could bring off croquettes
Like that, yet when she looks at me, I only
See her eyes. When she grins at me, I only see
Her humor, her clever wit, her willingness
To question conventions in the interest of being
Herself, first and last. I run my fingers over
Her blue sleeves, the way I ran my fingers

Over white linen in York. Only when I hear
The light rap of knuckles on my door do I
Shut the album. The door opens, admits
My elder sister, wrapped in a woolen shawl
Over her nightdress. She says I've been all right
Today, and I think I have carried that off.
She says I've been busy and asks to look

At my album. "Hmm. These are good.
You do have an eye... Thank you... At teatime..."
"I shan't marry him," I say. "No one will make
You do anything you don't want," she says.
"I want to go home!" "No one's there now
To look after you. Miss Lister is traveling...
But I won't let them bully you into anything."

She looks worn, if not haggard. "You are
Frightened of him, aren't you?" I ask.
She sighs. "So much more complicated
When you've got children, but I promise, Ann,
I'll look after you." And she is my big sister.
I must believe her. We hug. Such a little stretch
Of time before her babies, wake, cry, take her.