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!