If We Are Sisters

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If We Are Sisters

If We Are Sisters

Mary Grimm says of this collaboration, “Susan’s part of the poem was written maybe as much as two years before my part in a letter she wrote to me after our parents died. I remember when I read it thinking that it was as lucid and bright and image-ful as her poetry. And I kept it in mind that I wanted to answer it somehow, or do something with it.” Two years later, Mary did. They refer to it as “a kind of call and response that tries to express something of our pain during that time, and the ways we tried to deal with it.”

"If we are sisters" by Susan Grimm and Mary Grimm

 (a poem in two voices)
Sometimes I think we get so tired
of the specters of mother and dad,
how they’ve come to stand for that time

how we are crippled, how our love
cringes and pulls away, how memory
crisps and shrivels. We can’t, we can’t


when we couldn’t love them enough. Do
they obscure our past? Which was a kind
of heaven. And I’m the part that’s left.

not left but left behind, here beneath the sun,
planted in the ground, our limbs as branches,
our tears as dew rising, our lips are seared


Let me be the best part, the matching
dishes on the table, the ribbon on your pony
tail, the first best book you read in Daddy's chair

saying why. Small red shoes treading down
the grass full of violets, each curl with imprint
of her hands, the movie camera held steady to his eye.


"If We Are Sisters" with commentary on the poem by both Susan Grimm and Mary Grimm, from First Person Plural: A Small Collection of Collaborative Poetry and Essays on Collaboration edited by Robert Miltner and Susan Vargas. Twin Cranes Press, 2005. Used with permission of the authors and editors.

Susan Grimm’s book of poems, Lake Erie Blue, was published by BkMk Press in 2004. She edited Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems (CSU Poetry Center). She won the inaugural Copper Nickel Poetry Prize in 2010 and the Hayden Carruth Poetry Prize in 2011. Her chapbook Roughed Up by the Sun’s Mothering Tongue was published in 2011.

Mary Grimm has published a novel, Left to Themselves, and a story collection, Stealing Time, both with Random House. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Redbook, Antioch Review, and Mississippi Review, among other places. She teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University.