Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Sisters by Stanley Kunitz

Who whispered, souls have shapes?
so has the wind, I say.
But I don't know,
I only feel things blow.

I had two sisters once
with long black hair
who walked apart from me
and wrote the history of tears.
Their story's faded with their names,
but the candlelight they carried,
like dancers in a dream,
still flickers on their gowns
as they bend over me
to comfort my night-fears.

Let nothing grieve you,
Sarah and Sophia,
Shush, shush, my dears,
now and forever.

For about the first year I knew it, this poem made me cry every time I read it. It's still a bit mysterious to me why that is--I think it's partly because it has my name in it, even though I also think that's kind of weird. But poems touch us for complex reasons, some intellectual and some more visceral and deeper. I've also been sort of put off by the poem's strangeness, and the way it doesn't seem to acknowledge that parts of it, like the first stanza, don't make sense, but ultimately, those things that annoy me are also the things that make me love the poem. The almost nursery-rhyme-like lines have stayed with me and come to mind in moments that are troubling. The poem addresses itself to a desire for comfort that is deeper than sense, the desire to soothe and be soothed that persists into adulthood even though it is childlike, and that is connected to grief for the loss of childhood and for the deaths of people who were part of one's childhood.


Blogger Matt said...

Wow, that really is a sad poem. I'm not sure why it is so strong, but I felt it too. There is something dark about this poem that hits you. Maybe feeling "thing below" means that she can feel dead people (sort of like the Sixth Sense).

10:57 PM  

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