The Factories

I have shut my little sister in from life and light
   (For a rose, for a ribbon, for a wreath across my hair),
I have made her restless feet still until the night,
   Locked from sweets of summer and from wild spring air;
I who ranged the meadowlands, free from sun to sun,
   Free to sing and pull the buds and watch the far wings fly,
I have bound my sister till her playing-time was done—
   Oh, my little sister, was it I? Was it I?
I have robbed my sister of her day of maidenhood
   (For a robe, for a feather, for a trinket’s restless spark),
Shut from Love till dusk shall fall, how shall she know good,
   How shall she go scatheless through the sin-lit dark?
I who could be innocent, I who could be gay,
   I who could have love and mirth before the light went by,
I have put my sister in her mating-time away—
   Sister, my young sister, was it I? Was it I?
I have robbed my sister of the lips against her breast,
   (For a coin, for the weaving of my children’s lace and lawn),
Feet that pace beside the loom, hands that cannot rest—
   How can she know motherhood, whose strength is gone?
I who took no heed of her, starved and labor-worn,
   I, against whose placid heart my sleepy gold-heads lie,
’Round my path they cry to me, little souls unborn—
   God of Life! Creator! It was I! It was I!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.