Themes

A photo of children holding the Koran
The power of paper is explored in 'Tissue'

A number of unifying ideas or themes run through the poem. Different readers may attach more or less significance to each of these themes, depending upon how they view the poem.

ThemeEvidenceAnalysis
Power: this poem refers to the power of paper to change things and to record our memories.'this/ is what could alter things.'Even the most delicate kinds of paper can record the most important details - of family life, national borders or financial transactions.
Instability: the speaker suggests that paper (used as a metaphor for buildings) is at the mercy of greater forces, such as the weather.'might fly our lives like paper kites'The simile (a comparison using 'like' or 'as' to create a vivid image) suggests that our lives are not always in our control, but more like kites being blown by the wind.
Human essence: this poem compares the significance and fragility of paper documents to the fleeting nature of building structures.'how easily/ they fall away on a sigh,'/ 'turned into your skin.' The essence of human beings can outlast even things that seem permanent but have collapsed, like large buildings.
Question

How does the poet make the connection between paper and human life?

  • She uses examples of important aspects of life, such as buildings, money and food.
  • She refers to paper being 'thinned by age' and in the end directly compares it to skin. The effect of this connection is to highlight the fragility and delicacy of life.