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My pen-pal cousin used to send me

Photographs, heavy in those blue envelopes

Stamped "par avion." She posed in the sea, Small whitecaps splashing up her sundress. I think I loved her, even when she wrote In that strange tongue —so many Ks, Js and Zs My father had to translate. 2.

I expected another blue envelope Announcing the birth of her child; Instead I get this card, my cousin's picture Printed alongside a cross, heavy with Jesus. I don't call for my father, Scan the inscription full of Ks, Js and Zs — At once making terrible sense.

An early work, the poem is self-explanatory. The narrator has had a foreign pen-pal cousin since childhood and can't understand her language, asking his father to translate; years later, anticipating another letter, the narrator receives a funeral announcement, and this time he doesn't have to ask his father to interpret his grief (which he feels "fluently").

The sequence succeeds because its two parts suggest a passage of time, can stand alone, and, when grouped, make a better poem. Let's divide it into several parts that cannot stand alone:

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