October 16th, 2004

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Poetry meme; post a poem in your own journal in return.

First Love by Wislawa Szymborska
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh


They say
the first love’s most important.
That’s very romantic,
but not my experience.

Something was and wasn’t there between us,
something that went on and went away.

My hands never tremble
when I stumble on silly keepsakes
and a sheaf of letters tied with string---
not even ribbon.

Our only meeting after years:
the conversation of two chairs
at a chilly table.

Other loves
still breathe deep inside me.
This one’s too short of breathe even to sigh.

Yet, just exactly as it is,
it does what the others still can’t manage:
unremembered,
not even seen in dreams,
it introduces me to death.

I love that fourth stanza.
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This is called Daughter. The serial killer story growing from it is called Father's Day.

The late evening sun was creeping across the kitchen, slanting past the African violet dying on the windowsill and lighting sparkles in the stale air.
He was sitting at the table, beer bottle by his side. Sifting through some dogeared postcards, he picked up a pen, then began to write.

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He got up, carrying the letter to the stove. Lighting the burner again, he paused. Then, roughly stuffing the letter into his shirt pocket, he lit another cigarette.

Here it is, raygunn_revival