In Praise of My Sister by Wisława Szymborska
Why are people surprised when I tell them that no one in my family reads what I write? It is the safest thing in the world, actually. Sure, it can get pretty damn lonely, but I’m alright there. Leave me in that corner. If they knew what I was always thinking, if they knew what I was feeling— many, many, many things would change. So let me be the one with the wounds and the sullenness. I was meant to have it.
In Praise of My Sister
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
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 founder.
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 gets back, she’ll have
much to tell.