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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In Praise of My Sister

(Two Sisters on the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste
Renoir, 1841-1919, French Impressionist painter)

“Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply.” ~ Jane Austen, Manchester Park


My sister doesn’t write poems
and it’s unlikely that she’ll suddenly start writing poems.
She takes after her mother, who didn’t write poems,
and also her father, who likewise didn’t write poems.
I feel safe beneath my sister’s roof:
my sister’s husband would rather die than write poems.
And, even though this is starting to sound as repetitive as Peter Piper,
the truth is, none of my relatives write poems.

My sister’s desk drawers don’t hold old poems,
and her handbag doesn’t hold new ones.
When my sister asks me over for lunch,
I know she doesn’t want to read me her poems.
Her soups are delicious without ulterior motives.
Her coffee doesn’t spill on manuscripts.

There are many families in which nobody writes poems,
but once it starts up it’s hard to quarantine.
Sometimes poetry cascades down through the generations,
creating fatal whirlpools where family love may flounder.

My sister has tackled oral prose with some success,
but her entire written opus consists of postcards from
whose text is only the same promise every year:
when she comes back, she’ll have
so much
much to tell.

~ Wislawa Szymborska, born 1923, Polish poet and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature