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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

87. Pauline Barrett

ALMOST the shell of a woman after the surgeon’s knife!

And almost a year to creep back into strength,

Till the dawn of our wedding decennial

Found me my seeming self again.

We walked the forest together,

By a path of soundless moss and turf.

But I could not look in your eyes,

And you could not look in my eyes,

For such sorrow was ours—the beginning of gray in your hair,

And I but a shell of myself.

And what did we talk of?—sky and water,

Anything, ’most, to hide our thoughts.

And then your gift of wild roses,

Set on the table to grace our dinner.

Poor heart, how bravely you struggled

To imagine and live a remembered rapture!

Then my spirit drooped as the night came on,

And you left me alone in my room for a while,

As you did when I was a bride, poor heart.

And I looked in the mirror and something said:

“One should be all dead when one is half-dead—”

Nor ever mock life, nor ever cheat love.”

And I did it looking there in the mirror—

Dear, have you ever understood?