Wednesday, September 13, 2006

a poem by margaret atwood


This afternoon a man leans over
the hard rolls and the curled
butter, and tells me everything: two
women love him, he loves them, what
should he do?

The sun
sifts down through the imperceptibly
brownish urban air. I'm going to
suffer for this: turn red, get
blisters or else cancer. I eat
asparagus with my fingers, he
plunges into description.
He's at his wit's end, sewed
up in his own frenzy. He has
breadcrumbs in his beard.
I wonder
if I should let my hair go grey
so my advice will be better.
I could wrinkle up my eyelids,
look wise. I could get a pet lizard.
You're not crazy, I tell him.
Others have done this. Me, too.
Messy love is better than none,
I guess. I'm no authority
on sane living.

Which is all true
and no hep at all, because
this form of love is like the pain
of childbirth: so intense
it's hard to remember afterwards,
or what kind of screams and grimaces
it pushed you into.

The shrimp arrive on their skewers,
the courtyard trees unroll
their yellow caterpillars,
pollen powders our shoulders.
He wants them both, he relates
tortures, the coffee
arrives and altogether I am amazed
at his stupidities.

I sit looking at him
with a sort of wonder;
or is it envy?
Listen, I say to him,
you're very lucky.

~ i came upon this poem in Molly Peacock's book, How to Read a Poem...and Start a Poetry Circle. the more i read it, the more i get out of it (ahh atwood), but the third stanza is the most vibrant to me, especially the last lines.


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