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What is it about?
• The speaker uses tissue paper as an extended
metaphor for life
• She considers how paper can ‘alter things’ and
refers to the soft thin paper of religious books, in
particular the Koran
• There are also real life references to other lasting
uses we have for paper in our lives such as maps,
receipts and architect drawings. Each of these
items is connected to important aspects of life;
journeys, money and home. These examples
demonstrate how important but also how fragile
What is it about?
• In the final stages of the poem, the poet links
the idea of a building being made from paper
to human skin, using the words ‘living tissue’
and then ‘your skin’.
• This meaning is open to interpretation.
• She may be suggesting that the significance of
human life will outlast the records we make of
it on paper or in buildings. There is also a
sense of the fragility of human life, and the
fact that not everything can last.
• Unrhymed, irregular quatrains
• Could represent the irregularity of life and the
flimsy nature of the tissue paper the poem
• The poem consists of 10 stanzas. 9 x 4 lines,
then a 1 line stanza – Draws our attention to it
• Separating out this line emphasises the
connection between paper and skin, showing
the significance of human life.
• Free verse – The poem lacks regular rhythm
and the rhythm is unsteady, as if to mirror the
fluttering of tissue paper.
• The poet uses enjambment, running across
lines and stanzas. This adds to the flowing,
delicate nature – both of paper and of the
human lives the poet compares the tissue to.
Paper that lets the light
shine through, this
is what could alter things.
Paper thinned by age or touching,
The light shining in
could represent God –
Light is often used as a
symbol of truth, or in
religious texts to
In Stz2, speaker refers
to pages of the Koran,
supporting this idea
that the light, being
Allah or God, is “what
could alter things.”
The thin paper represents old age.
As we age, skin becomes thinner –
Poem may suggest that when this
happens things ‘alter’ because we
the kind you find in well-used books,
the back of the Koran, where a hand
has written in the names and histories,
who was born to whom,
Extended metaphor of
the paper representing
human life – suggestion
here is that the
human/skin has been
touched and used by
others, much like the
recorded on paper.
Can we outlast
the height and weight, who
died where and how, on which sepia date,
pages smoothed and stroked and turned
transparent with attention.
Reference to the paper
of a birth and death
Brownish tone –
associated with the
used again – Paper is
human skin here
which is “smoothed
and stroked” – we
are changed by our
What happens to the
paper – Perhaps also
the fragility of human
life and how people
If buildings were paper, I might
feel their drift, see how easily
they fall away on a sigh, a shift
in the direction of the wind.
Maps too. The sun shines through
their borderlines, the marks
that rivers make, roads,
Could be a reference to
human skin – blemishes,
veins, scars, all marks all
attained during life?
Can human life
paper, we are
of life being like a
journey – Map of a
Sibilance could highlight the
sun being the happy times of
life? The important times?
Repetition of images to do
Fine slips from grocery shops
that say how much was sold
and what was paid by credit card
might fly our lives like paper kites.
An architect could use all this,
place layer over layer, luminous
script over numbers over line,
and never wish to build again with brick
Simile - Idea of
the image of
But is it ‘actual’
tied down to
Paper trail of
Paper has the ability to be more powerful than
brick – People’s lives can be more powerful too
Another light reference –
possible metaphor: providing
answers or knowledge
or block, but let the daylight break
through capitals and monoliths,
through the shapes that pride can make,
find a way to trace a grand design
with living tissue, raise a structure
never meant to last,
of paper smoothed and stroked
and thinned to be transparent,
again – paper =
which is touched
by others and by
life in general
refer to the way
a life is built,
grand in its own
way, yet never
meant to last
The speaker says that human life is
both a wonderful construction and
fleeting (not around for a long
The poet refers to the religious idea that man is made in
the image of God. The ‘grand design’ suggests the
perfect image of God that is traced with ‘living tissue’ in
the form of humankind.
turned into your skin.
Final stanza is one line in length –
drawing our attention to it
Separating out this line emphasises the connection
between paper and skin, showing the significance of
Direct pronoun “your” speaks to the reader. As we value
human life and compare its vulnerability to paper – like
the extended metaphor throughout the poem.