Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
The Old Woman
By Marjorie Allen Seiffert
A Morality Play in Two Parts

    THERE is an old woman
    Who ought to die—
Deacon:    And nobody knows
    But what she’s dead—
Doctor:    The air will be cleaner        5
    When she’s gone—
Deacon:    But we dare not bury her
    Till she’s dead—
Landlady:    Come, young doctor
    From the first floor front,        10
    Come, dusty deacon
    From the fourth floor back—
    You take her heels
    And I’ll take her head—
Doctor and
    We’ll carry her        15
    And bury her—
    If she’s dead!
House:    They roll her up
    In her old red quilt,
    They carry her down        20
    At a horizontal tilt.
    She doesn’t say, “Yes!”
    And she doesn’t say, “No!”
    She doesn’t say, “Gentlemen,
    Where do we go?”        25
Doctor:    Out in the lot
    Where the ash-cans die,
    There, old woman,
    There shall you lie!
Deacon:    Let’s hurry away,        30
    And never look behind
    To see if her eyes
    Are dead and blind,
    To see if the quilt
    Lies over her face.        35
    Perhaps she’ll groan,
    Or move in her place!
House:    The room is empty
    Where the old woman lay,
    And I no longer        40
    Smell like a tomb—
Landlady:    Doctor, deacon,
    Can you say
    Who’ll pay the rent
    For the old woman’s room?        45

    The room is empty
    Down the hall;
    There are mice in the closet,
    Ghosts in the wall.
    A pretty little lady        50
    Comes to see—
Woman:    Oh, what a dark room!
    Not for me!
Landlady:    The room is large
    And the rent is low;        55
    There’s a deacon above,
    And a doctor below—
Deacon:    When the little mice squeak
    I will pray—
Doctor:    I’ll psycho-analyze        60
    The ghosts away—
Landlady:    The bed is large
    And the mattress deep;
    Wrapped in a featherbed
    You shall sleep—        65
Woman:    But here’s the door
    Without a key—
    An unlocked room
    Won’t do for me!
Doctor:    Here’s a bolt—        70
Deacon:    And here’s a bar—
Landlady:    You’ll sleep safely
    Where you are!
Woman:    Good-night, gentlemen,
    It’s growing late.        75
    Good-night, landlady,
    Pray don’t wait!
    I’m going to bed—
    I’ll bolt the door
    And sleep more soundly        80
    Than ever before!
Deacon:    Good-night, madam,
    I’ll steal away—
Doctor:    Glad a pretty lady
    Has come to stay!        85
House:    She lights a candle—
    What do I see?
    That cloak looks like
    A quilt to me!
    She climbs into bed        90
    Where long she’s lain;
    She’s come back home—
    She won’t leave again.
    She’s found once more
    Her rightful place—        95
    Same old lady
    With a pretty new face.
    Let the deacon pray
    And the doctor talk—
    The mice will squeak        100
    And the ghosts will walk.
    There’s a crafty smile
    On the landlady’s face—
    The old woman’s gone
    And she’s filled her place!        105
Landlady:    It’s nothing to me
    If the old woman’s dead—
    I’ve somebody sleeping
    In every bed!

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