Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Grace Paley on Sisters

A terrible thing happened this year. Well, a good and a terrible thing, as the two seem to be often wound together. From December 1st until December 15th, I was in the end of the semester, paper-writing, holiday preparations mode. It was intense and one of the things I limited is what I was doing on my computer. (You’ll notice - no blog entries from late November until December 25th). In the process of limiting my email time and my calendar time (I will play for hours with organizational tools, like ical, as a way to avoid doing actual work), I realized that I forgot, yes, FORGOT, my sister’s yartzeit. It was a day that was dedicated entirely to writing the paper. It’s the first year I’ve completely forgotten it. Usually, I have some sense of dread and then find solace in the candle burning. I bought the yartzeit candle in October, but it wasn’t burned this year. So while I’m horrified because this seems like a terrible oversight of my sister’s life, in some ways, it is also a good thing. This year was twelve years. I’ll remember her always, but the remembering gets easier (and now I see how remembering becomes forgetting).

Grace Paley has a new book coming out in March of 2008. The Writer’s Almanac, from which this poem is taken, is featuring some of the poems. This one I especially like and so I’ve been reading it today, remembering my sister. I’ve lit a candle for her, not a yartzeit candle, a small votive. I think she’ll appreciate it.

Poem: "I needed to talk to my sister..." by Grace Paley, from Fidelity. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

I needed to talk to my sister...


I needed to talk to my sister
talk to her on the telephone I mean
just as I used to every morning
in the evening too whenever the
grandchildren said a sentence that
clasped both our hearts

I called her phone rang four times
you can imagine my breath stopped then
there was a terrible telephonic noise
a voice said this number is no
longer in use how wonderful I
thought I can
call again they have not yet assigned
her number to another person despite
two years of absence due to death

1 comment:

NP said...

Thank you Julie.
Nora Paley