Martha – Gillian Edwards

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1961 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: Thomas Moult, Doreen Wallace V. Sackwille-West

A brother ill, a sister strangely wayward –
I did not choose, no choice was offered me;
Only my back was strong enough to carry
The weight of this household’s economy.
Yet what I did today was done with joy
Because for you; for your hands to caress
Its silken grain I scoured the table smooth,
Fashioned fine loaves for you to break and bless,
Your pleasure mine, without reward, until
Seeing her idle there I, overtasked,
Longed in sharp pain to sit and listen too.
Help with the serving – was it so much I asked?

The house is empty now, empty and silent,
Haunted by these sweet words I didn’t hear;
And what they were she will not cannot tell me,
They have no meaning to my unskilled ear.
My love has turned to piles of dirty dishes,
To scrubbing, sweeping, polishing again,
Just as it was, just as it always will be,
With only your rebuke for all my pain.
Oh you who smiled in pity for my trouble,
Pity me still and teach me what I lack;
I was content among my pans and brushes –
Give me back my jar, or give it back.

Copyright © Gillian Edwards 1961

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