Two Old Sisters

by Francine Witte

The older was the pretty one,
still keeping the secret about long
achy nights with her sister’s husband,
his hand hushed over her breast.
Mornings after, she would want
to confess, but his touch kept her
stupid and too much in love.

The plainer sister knew it
all along.  Had lived with it since
twelve years old when the neighbor
boy agreed to kiss her if she’d promise
to put in a good word.  She had to accept
that this is how it would always be
and that half was better than none,

better than the lonely life her mother
predicted, leaving her more in the will
to make up for the beauty she didn’t
divide.  The older sister had her own
stuff.  The abortion, the stack of excuses
she cherished like love letters.  She used

to wish her beauty away, thinking
it helped in life to be plain.  No one
trusted beauty, not even her, knew
it would up and leave someday
just like her lover, just like her
mother, who favored the plainer sister,
leaving her more, after all, in the will.

And what did it matter anyway?
The two old sisters sitting now
by a window.  Evened out by age.
The secrets they are still holding
on to, covering them like a shawl.