Nov. 3, 2002


by Stephen Dunn

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Poem: "Sister," by Stephen Dunn from New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton).


The sister I never had
enters my wife when I am
sleeping next to her.
So many times
I've watched my sister
come from her separate room,
the room that long ago
in a house of brothers
was an extra room
down the hall from where
I would dream her alive.
She climbs into bed
on my wife's side
and I touch my wife awake
for now my sister and she
are the woman I must talk to
about incompleteness and love.
Awake, she doesn't know
my sister is in her,
she doesn't know why my embrace
has so much gratefulness in it,
why my questions are all
whispered as if
a father could overhear us.
She thinks I want to
make love but I remove
her hand and hold it,
ask another question
about high school and loss,
the kind of loss
that repeats itself every day
like being born
without a leg.
I watch my sister leave
as my wife takes me
in her arms, says hush
you've been talking again,
sleep now,
and I curl into her
as if it were possible
she could be everything to me,
alone like this,
just ourselves.

It's the birthday of Martin Cruz Smith born in Reading, Pennsylvania (1942). He is the author of the Arkady Renko series of detective novels, including Gorky Park, and other works such as Stallion Gate, about the first atom bomb. He also wrote the novel Rose.

It's the birthday of Aboriginal activist and poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal or Kath Walker, born in Brisbane, Australia (1920). Her two collections of poetry, We are Going and The Dawn is at Hand, were the first Aboriginal works to be published in English in Australia.

It's the birthday of Walker Evans, American photographer, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903). He began his career by photographing the rural South during the depression. He also illustrated Hart Crane's 1930 epic poem, "The Bridge," with his series of photos of the Brooklyn Bridge. These photos led to his most famous work, Now Let Us Praise Famous Men, a collaboration with poet James Agee depicting Appalachian sharecropping families during the Depression.

It's the birthday of novelist, orator, and social reformer Ignatius Donnelly, born in Philadelphia (1831). He served in congress and published Atlantis in 1882, which traced the origins of human civilization to the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis. He went on to publish two more novels, and two books, The Great Cryptogram and The Cipher in the Plays and on the Tombstone (1888 &1899), which attempted to prove that Francis Bacon had written the works of Shakespeare.

It's the birthday of the poet, publisher, and lawyer William Cullen Bryant, born in Cummington, Massachusetts (1794). Many of his early poems, including "Thanatopsis" and "To a Waterfowl," were among his best known and written before he was 30 years old. He then had a happy life as a lawyer and newspaper editor in New York City.

It's the birthday of the French novelist Andre Malraux, born in Paris (1901). He went of to Cambodia as an archaeologist in the late 1920's, he fought in the Spanish Civil War and was part of the French Resistance. His novels include Man's Fate (1933), and Man's Hope (1938).

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