You hid yourselves so well, invisible ones,
you disappeared behind the masks you wore:
devoted daughters, governesses, nuns,
companions, witches, bluestockings and whores.
You kept the home fires burning, stepped aside,
played second fiddle, learned to smile and nod,
were always bridesmaids, sometimes even brides,
sought solace in your friendships, gardens, God.
Your vows were camouflaged as pleasantries,
your love-tokens concealed in attic rooms;
your lives are phantom limbs on family trees,
your dear ones’ names are missing from your tombs.
And those of you who couldn’t, who refused
to blot yourselves out, those who never learned
to patchwork discontent with gratitude,
were cast out, beaten, locked up, raped or burned.
For this, invisible sisters, and for all
you buttoned up, for all you were denied,
we colour ourselves in, speak out, stand tall,
join hands with you in sorrow and in pride.
Alison Binney is a poet and teacher from Cambridge, UK. She was longlisted for this year’s National Poetry Competition and has had poems published in Magma, The North, Under the Radar and The Fenland Reed.