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Three Houses of Women by Jennifer Copley

No one knows how long this house has been here.
They say a stream used to run beside it.
Sometimes you can see ripples on the walls
that tell of the old days
when horses stood there and drank
and at night lay down like ghosts.
The house speaks its own language,
a strange tongue of whispers and shadows.
It tells of long dead Martha
and her household of women
who wrung out their rags in the stream
and called to each other under the wash line.
It tells of a child’s buried shoe, of a serving girl
giving birth in the cellar, of a sister who shaved
her chin and wore her brother’s clothes.

another house
tells of a daughter
kept indoors because she was plain
how she spent her days in the attic
rocking on an old wooden horse
how the reins and bridle were damp with tears
how the mane and tail were plaited so many times
and every time thinner how the girl got thinner refused to grow
how she learnt the language of horse

there was one more house that no one could see
it fell in the river brick by brick
there were no fish the water was polluted
the only language was scratched on stones
they say if you stand on the bank and listen
you’ll hear a door slam
the rattle of curtain rings sliding across
you might glimpse the woman who lives there
setting her place at the table for supper