August 17, 2010

The Lyrical and the Gritty

Anna Swir, who was the only daughter of a poor painter in Poland, and who once was 60 minutes away from execution, writes:

For the last time I wash the shirt
of my father who died.
The shirt smells of sweat. I remember
that sweat from my childhood,
so many years
I washed his shirts and underwear,
I dried them
at an iron stove in the workshop,
he would put them on unironed.

From among all bodies in the world,
animal, human,
only one exuded that sweat.
I breathe it in
for the last time. Washing this shirt
I destroy it
only paintings survive him
which smell of oils.

Anna Swir, you take my breath away with this poem. The sweat, the washing, the fierce physicality of your writing.

I see my father again, for but a moment.

Filed under Essays