I watch them diminish in rooms
made sweet with straw-matting,
heads bent to winter candlelight.
Elizabeth, Nan and
Lettice sewing hare-bells, pansies,
honesty and roses
for unknown husbands who don’t give
a damn for girls’ stitches.
Beneath green samplers their child-plump
knees conjure English hills
where knots of un-dyed wool are sheep
clinging to Shropshire slopes,
un-trimmed black silks the flapping crows
that glean Derbyshire fields,
forgotten pins the straggling posts
loosened by Norfolk gales.
Child-brides embroidering scenes of
Albion to warm cold
marriage-beds, but fevers take girls
in moments, and nothing
is left to chance; fathers must sign
even younger daughters for their
dead un-bedded sisters.