POEMS BY MARY ALDIS:
SEEKING Poem By Mary Aldis
Swift like the lark
Out of the dark
One cometh, singing;
Silent in flight
Out of the night
Answer is winging.
Forth to the dawn
Leaps like a fawn
A cry of high greeting,
Into the sun
Two that have run
Seeking, are meeting.
THE SISTERS Poem By Mary Aldis
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
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
And gave me their secrets.
WATCHERS Poem By Mary Aldis
I watch the Eastern sky
For a sign of dawn
Such stillness is around
That every separate sense
Is twice-attuned, twice powerful,
And loneliness enwraps me like a sea
Into whose unplumbed depths I must go down:
A sea unsatisfied
Where drifting shapes, wan-eyed,
Reach forth wan arms
Towards them who pause to look at their own souls
Mirrored upon the sea.
Somewhere a loon
Sends forth its weary cry across the dark.
Oh, wailing bird, I know, I know!
I think tonight the soul of the world is desolate
And you and I its watchers.
Yet cease! oh cease!
The night air quivers and resounds
To bear your cry across the sleeping lake,
And I would have your silence
While I make
My own complaint.
For I would ask why we who have so little space
To live and love and wonder
Must go down into eternal mystery
And I would know
Why, since that awful loneliness must be,
We go about as strangers here on earth
And meet and laugh and mock and part again
With never a look into each other’s eyes,
With never a question of each others’ pain.
So, even as I hear your melancholy plaint
Across the sleeping lake,
I send my questing cry across the world–
And as I watch and listen,
Through the stillness
There comes to me an echoing and a far reverberation
Of the many who have gone
Into the limitless mystery,
And thus they speak–
“We too have known your questing,
We too have stretched our arms forth to the night
And clasped its nothingness,
We too have lived and loved and wondered
For a little space
And then gone onward,
And we seek across the silence
To send our voices
Out, out, across the dark.”
Is it your voice I hear, oh far, strange bird,
Or is it theirs–
Theirs who have gone onward
Alone and unafraid?
Is there an answer I may sometime find,
Or is it that our lips are dumb,
Our eyes are blind,
When love would come?
Now faint light comes upon the shadowy sky,
The East is waking and the day begins.
You send your cry across the quivering lake,
I send my question out across the world,
We watch, we two,
MY BOAT AND I Poem By Mary Aldis
My staunch little boat is tugging at its moorings
Eager to be free,
Eager to slip out on the great waters
Beyond the returning tides,
Out to the unknown sea.
My staunch little boat, unwilling prisoner,
Frets and pulls at the anchor chain
While the wind calls,
I will bear you
Out to the unknown sea!”
Long time my boat and I have plied the harbour
On little busy journeyings intent,
Long time with wistful gazing
I have listened to the calling–
The winds with buffeting caress,
The waves with ceaseless urge–
Calling “Rest, rest, rest,
Rest on an unknown sea.”
And now we are away
Into the mystery.
Quietly the swaying waters
Rock and beguile and soothe us
That we may not know
We are so far away.
Along the shore
Are hands stretched out.
What would you with me now,
Oh pleading hands?
I come not to you any more,
I have set my sail
Out to the unknown sea,
Would you have me stay adventuring?
Would you have me come again
To be amidst you
With alien eyes and a heart unquiet?
Oh cease your crying!
I come not back.
Long time my little boat and I
Have fretted at the mooring,
Long time we have looked out beyond the bar
With a great questioning, and a great wonder,
And then, an hour came which held the parting
And we slipped
Out, out, to the unknown sea.
The hands stretched out have faded from my sight,
The shore is dim,
The mountains fade into the limitless blue,
Only the wind and the sea companion me,
“Rest, rest, rest,
Rest on an unknown sea.”
BROWN SANDS Poem By Mary Aldis
My stallion impatiently
Stamps at my side,
Into the desert far
We two shall ride.
Brown sands around us fly,
Winds whistle free,
The desert is sharing
Gladness with me.
The madness of motion
Is mine again.
Sorrow and pain.
Into the desert far
Swiftly we flee,
Knowing the passionate
Joy of the free.