The Same Inside

Author

Swir, Anna

Genre

Poetry

Overview

Anna Swir was born in Warsaw in 1909 and lived there until the Warsaw uprising of 1944, during which time she served as a nurse and experienced the city's near-total destruction. Her poetry, which she began to publish in the 1930's, takes up themes such as war, sexual love, and motherhood. In "The Same Inside" the speaker of the poem tells about encountering an old beggar woman on the street while en route to a romantic tryst. Falling into conversation with the needy stranger, the speaker experiences an intense moment of recognition and communion and loses interest in the planned rendezvous. The poem, addressed to the lover with whom the original tryst was to take place, delves into the forces that attract us to others and then maintain our connections with them. How trustworthy is the sense of identifying with another human being? Do we connect with others because of what we feel we can give to them? Take from them? How do we decide which relationship takes precedence when?

Full Text*

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Type

Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.

Themes

Connection and RelationshipExclusion and BelongingGiving and ReceivingImpact and OutcomesLove and CompassionMoney and WealthMotives and ValuesPoverty and NeedRoles and BoundariesServing and Volunteering

Big Questions

What kinds of relationships matter the most?How do we respond to strangers?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?What impact matters most?What is the impact of our actions - on ourselves and others?Should we love the people we serve?Can selfish motives result in positive action?How do we know what someone needs?How should we respond to people and communities in need?How far should we go in trying to identify with those we serve?Is it important to set boundaries? Why?Should we keep a distance from the people we serve?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Where, at the start of the poem, is the speaker headed? What does she mean by "a love feast"?
  2. What stops the narrator from going to the initial destination and how does this happen?
  3. What do we know about the speaker? What do we know about the beggar woman? Is our knowledge of them equal?
  4. The narrator says, “she was/the same inside as I am,/from the same kind./I sensed this instantly/as a dog knows by scent/another dog.” How do you interpret those lines? What's the same? How does she know?
  5. Who do you think the speaker is referring to when he/she says “one needs someone who is close”? Why can't she leave the woman?
  6. On the whole, does this seem to you to be a positive encounter? Why or why not?
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