was & wasn’t there

First Love

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 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:
two chairs chatting
at a chilly table.

Other loves
still breathe deep inside me.
This one’s too short of breath 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.

-Wislawa Szymborska, from Monologue of a Dog, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
   

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