Sarah Law


Handwriting

Her little mother, Pauline,
oversaw her learning,

from behind the convent grille
she fed her on pictures

and fibreless, sugary stories.
Six year later, Thérèse came in,

and Pauline kept an eye
on her deportment –

the incline of her head at prayer;
the angle of her script.

Lean your words to the right,
she told her. Follow my bars and loops.

Thérèse obeyed. Even in drafting
her plays where devils rattled

at their cages, and Joan of Arc
was chained in her dark prison –

she forced her lines to curtsey. Only
near the end, Pauline relinquished

her fussy instruction. Write
as you long to. So then the letters

of her sister’s hand soared skywards,
stretching up in uttered confidence

that God would take her at her word
and lift her even higher.