By Marilyn Nelson
Five daughters, in the slant light on the porch,
are bickering. The eldest has come home
with new truths she can hardly wait to teach.
She lectures them: the younger daughters search
the sky, elbow each other’s ribs, and groan.
Five daughters, in the slant light on the porch
and blue-sprigged dresses, like a stand of birch
saplings whose leaves are going yellow-brown
with new truths. They can hardly wait to teach,
themselves, to be called “Ma’am,” to march
high-heeled across the hanging bridge to town.
Five daughters. In the slant light on the porch
Pomp lowers his paper for a while, to watch
the beauties he’s begotten with his Ann:
these new truths they can hardly wait to teach.
The eldest sniffs, “A lady doesn’t scratch.”
The third snorts back, “Knock, knock: nobody home.”
The fourth concedes, “Well, maybe not in church . . . “
Five daughters in the slant light on the porch.
Poem copyright ©1990 by Marilyn Nelson, “Daughters 1900,” from The Homeplace, (Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1990). Poem reprinted by permission of Marilyn Nelson and the publisher.
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