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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Against Still Life', Margaret Atwood

Against Still Life

Orange in the middle of a table:

It isn't enough
to walk around it
at a distance, saying
it's an orange:
nothing to do
with us, nothing
else: leave it alone.

I want to pick it up
in my hand
I want to peel the
skin off; I want
more to be said of me
than just Orange:
want to be told
everything it has to say.
And you, sitting across
the table, at a distance, with
your smile contained, and like the orange
in the sun: silent:

Your silence
isn't enough for me
now, no matter with what
contentment you fold
your hands together; I want
anything you can say
in the sunlight:
stories of your various
childhoods, aimless journeyings,
your loves; your articulate
skeleton; your posturings; your lies.

These orange silences
(sunlight and hidden smile)
make me want to
wrench you into saying;
now I'd crack your skull
like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin
to make you talk, or get
a look inside.

But quietly:
if I take the orange
with care enough and hold it
gently

I may find
an egg
a sun
an orange moon
perhaps a skull; center
of all energy
resting in my hand

can change it to
whatever I desire
it to be

and you, man, orange afternoon
lover, wherever
you sit across from me
(tables, trains, buses)

if I watch
quietly enough
and long enough

at last you will say
(maybe without speaking)

(there are mountains
inside your skull,
garden and chaos, ocean
and hurricane, certain
corners of rooms, portraits
of great grandmothers, curtains
of a particular shade;
your deserts; your private
dinosaurs; the first
woman)

all I need to know
tell me
everything
just as it was
from the beginning.

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© Margaret Atwood, ‘Selected Poems 1965-1975’, Houghter Mifflin Harcourt, 1987

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