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Best Famous Margaret Atwood Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Margaret Atwood poems. This is a select list of the best famous Margaret Atwood poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Margaret Atwood poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of margaret atwood poems.

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by Margaret Atwood | |

The Shadow Voice

 My shadow said to me: 
what is the matter


Isn't the moon warm
enough for you
why do you need
the blanket of another body


Whose kiss is moss


Around the picnic tables
The bright pink hands held sandwiches
crumbled by distance.
Flies crawl over the sweet instant You know what is in these blankets The trees outside are bending with children shooting guns.
Leave them alone.
They are playing games of their own.
I give water, I give clean crusts Aren't there enough words flowing in your veins to keep you going.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Flying Inside Your Own Body

 Your lungs fill & spread themselves,
wings of pink blood, and your bones
empty themselves and become hollow.
When you breathe in you’ll lift like a balloon and your heart is light too & huge, beating with pure joy, pure helium.
The sun’s white winds blow through you, there’s nothing above you, you see the earth now as an oval jewel, radiant & seablue with love.
It’s only in dreams you can do this.
Waking, your heart is a shaken fist, a fine dust clogs the air you breathe in; the sun’s a hot copper weight pressing straight down on the think pink rind of your skull.
It’s always the moment just before gunshot.
You try & try to rise but you cannot.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Is/Not

 Love is not a profession
genteel or otherwise

sex is not dentistry
the slick filling of aches and cavities

you are not my doctor
you are not my cure,

nobody has that
power, you are merely a fellow/traveller

Give up this medical concern,
buttoned, attentive,

permit yourself anger
and permit me mine

which needs neither
your approval nor your suprise

which does not need to be made legal
which is not against a disease

but agaist you,
which does not need to be understood

or washed or cauterized,
which needs instead

to be said and said.
Permit me the present tense.


More great poems below...

by Margaret Atwood | |

Morning in the Burned House

 In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast, yet here I am.
The spoon which was melted scrapes against the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.
Where have they gone to, brother and sister, mother and father? Off along the shore, perhaps.
Their clothes are still on the hangers, their dishes piled beside the sink, which is beside the woodstove with its grate and sooty kettle, every detail clear, tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless, the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud rises up silently like dark bread.
I can see the swirls in the oilcloth, I can see the flaws in the glass, those flares where the sun hits them.
I can't see my own arms and legs or know if this is a trap or blessing, finding myself back here, where everything in this house has long been over, kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl, including my own body, including the body I had then, including the body I have now as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy, bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards (I can almost see) in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts and grubby yellow T-shirt holding my cindery, non-existent, radiant flesh.
Incandescent.


by Margaret Atwood | |

The Landlady

 This is the lair of the landlady

She is
a raw voice
loose in the rooms beneath me.
the continuous henyard squabble going on below thought in this house like the bicker of blood through the head.
She is everywhere, intrusive as the smells that bulge in under my doorsill; she presides over my meagre eating, generates the light for eyestrain.
From her I rent my time: she slams my days like doors.
Nothing is mine.
and when I dream images of daring escapes through the snow I find myself walking always over a vast face which is the land- lady's, and wake up shouting.
She is a bulk, a knot swollen in a space.
Though I have tried to find some way around her, my senses are cluttered by perception and can't see through her.
She stands there, a raucous fact blocking my way: immutable, a slab of what is real.
solid as bacon.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Sekhmet the Lion-headed Goddess of War

 He was the sort of man
who wouldn't hurt a fly.
Many flies are now alive while he is not.
He was not my patron.
He preferred full granaries, I battle.
My roar meant slaughter.
Yet here we are together in the same museum.
That's not what I see, though, the fitful crowds of staring children learning the lesson of multi- cultural obliteration, sic transit and so on.
I see the temple where I was born or built, where I held power.
I see the desert beyond, where the hot conical tombs, that look from a distance, frankly, like dunces' hats, hide my jokes: the dried-out flesh and bones, the wooden boats in which the dead sail endlessly in no direction.
What did you expect from gods with animal heads? Though come to think of it the ones made later, who were fully human were not such good news either.
Favour me and give me riches, destroy my enemies.
That seems to be the gist.
Oh yes: And save me from death.
In return we're given blood and bread, flowers and prayer, and lip service.
Maybe there's something in all of this I missed.
But if it's selfless love you're looking for, you've got the wrong goddess.
I just sit where I'm put, composed of stone and wishful thinking: that the deity who kills for pleasure will also heal, that in the midst of your nightmare, the final one, a kind lion will come with bandages in her mouth and the soft body of a woman, and lick you clean of fever, and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck and caress you into darkness and paradise.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Backdropp Addresses Cowboy

 Starspangled cowboy 
sauntering out of the almost-
silly West, on your face 
a porcelain grin, 
tugging a papier-mache cactus 
on wheels behind you with a string, 


you are innocent as a bathtub
full of bullets.
Your righteous eyes, your laconic trigger-fingers people the streets with villains: as you move, the air in front of you blossoms with targets and you leave behind you a heroic trail of desolation: beer bottles slaughtered by the side of the road, bird- skulls bleaching in the sunset.
I ought to be watching from behind a cliff or a cardboard storefront when the shooting starts, hands clasped in admiration, but I am elsewhere.
Then what about me what about the I confronting you on that border you are always trying to cross? I am the horizon you ride towards, the thing you can never lasso I am also what surrounds you: my brain scattered with your tincans, bones, empty shells, the litter of your invasions.
I am the space you desecrate as you pass through.


by Margaret Atwood | |

The City Planners

 Cruising these residential Sunday
streets in dry August sunlight:
what offends us is
the sanities:
the houses in pedantic rows, the planted
sanitary trees, assert
levelness of surface like a rebuke
to the dent in our car door.
No shouting here, or shatter of glass; nothing more abrupt than the rational whine of a power mower cutting a straight swath in the discouraged grass.
But though the driveways neatly sidestep hysteria by being even, the roofs all display the same slant of avoidance to the hot sky, certain things: the smell of spilled oil a faint sickness lingering in the garages, a splash of paint on brick surprising as a bruise, a plastic hose poised in a vicious coil; even the too-fixed stare of the wide windows give momentary access to the landscape behind or under the future cracks in the plaster when the houses, capsized, will slide obliquely into the clay seas, gradual as glaciers that right now nobody notices.
That is where the City Planners with the insane faces of political conspirators are scattered over unsurveyed territories, concealed from each other, each in his own private blizzard; guessing directions, they sketch transitory lines rigid as wooden borders on a wall in the white vanishing air tracing the panic of suburb order in a bland madness of snows


by Margaret Atwood | |

Provisions

 What should we have taken
with us? We never could decide
on that; or what to wear,
or at what time of
year we should make the journey

So here we are in thin
raincoats and rubber boots

On the disastrous ice, the wind rising

Nothing in our pockets

But a pencil stub, two oranges
Four Toronto streetcar tickets

and an elastic band holding a bundle
of small white filing cards
printed with important facts.


by Margaret Atwood | |

The Moment

 The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper.
You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.


by Margaret Atwood | |

The Rest

 The rest of us watch from beyond the fence
as the woman moves with her jagged stride
into her pain as if into a slow race.
We see her body in motion but hear no sounds, or we hear sounds but no language; or we know it is not a language we know yet.
We can see her clearly but for her it is running in black smoke.
The cluster of cells in her swelling like porridge boiling, and bursting, like grapes, we think.
Or we think of explosions in mud; but we know nothing.
All around us the trees and the grasses light up with forgiveness, so green and at this time of the year healthy.
We would like to call something out to her.
Some form of cheering.
There is pain but no arrival at anything.


by Margaret Atwood | |

This Is A Photograph Of Me

 It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be a smeared print: blurred lines and grey flecks blended with the paper; then, as you scan it, you see in the left-hand corner a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree (balsam or spruce) emerging and, to the right, halfway up what ought to be a gentle slope, a small frame house.
In the background there is a lake, and beyond that, some low hills.
(The photograph was taken the day after I drowned.
I am in the lake, in the center of the picture, just under the surface.
It is difficult to say where precisely, or to say how large or small I am: the effect of water on light is a distortion but if you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me.
)


by Margaret Atwood | |

Spelling

 My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
spelling,
how to make spells.
* I wonder how many women denied themselves daughters, closed themselves in rooms, drew the curtains so they could mainline words.
* A child is not a poem, a poem is not a child.
There is no either / or.
However.
* I return to the story of the woman caught in the war & in labour, her thighs tied together by the enemy so she could not give birth.
Ancestress: the burning witch, her mouth covered by leather to strangle words.
A word after a word after a word is power.
* At the point where language falls away from the hot bones, at the point where the rock breaks open and darkness flows out of it like blood, at the melting point of granite when the bones know they are hollow & the word splits & doubles & speaks the truth & the body itself becomes a mouth.
This is a metaphor.
* How do you learn to spell? Blood, sky & the sun, your own name first, your first naming, your first name, your first word.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Night Poem

 There is nothing to be afraid of,
it is only the wind
changing to the east, it is only
your father the thunder
your mother the rain

In this country of water
with its beige moon damp as a mushroom,
its drowned stumps and long birds
that swim, where the moss grows
on all sides of the trees
and your shadow is not your shadow
but your reflection,

your true parents disappear
when the curtain covers your door.
We are the others, the ones from under the lake who stand silently beside your bed with our heads of darkness.
We have come to cover you with red wool, with our tears and distant whispers.
You rock in the rain's arms, the chilly ark of your sleep, while we wait, your night father and mother, with our cold hands and dead flashlight, knowing we are only the wavering shadows thrown by one candle, in this echo you will hear twenty years later.


by Margaret Atwood | |

You Fit Into Me

 You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
A fish hook
An open eye


by Margaret Atwood | |

You Begin

 You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like.
This is yellow.
Outside the window is the rain, green because it is summer, and beyond that the trees and then the world, which is round and has only the colors of these nine crayons.
This is the world, which is fuller and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way with the red and then the orange: the world burns.
Once you have learned these words you will learn that there are more words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors your hand to this table your hand is a warm stone I hold between two words.
This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world, which is round but not flat and has more colors than we can see.
It begins, it has an end, this is what you will come back to, this is your hand.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Bored

 All those times I was bored
out of my mind.
Holding the log while he sawed it.
Holding the string while he measured, boards, distances between things, or pounded stakes into the ground for rows and rows of lettuces and beets, which I then (bored) weeded.
Or sat in the back of the car, or sat still in boats, sat, sat, while at the prow, stern, wheel he drove, steered, paddled.
It wasn't even boredom, it was looking, looking hard and up close at the small details.
Myopia.
The worn gunwales, the intricate twill of the seat cover.
The acid crumbs of loam, the granular pink rock, its igneous veins, the sea-fans of dry moss, the blackish and then the graying bristles on the back of his neck.
Sometimes he would whistle, sometimes I would.
The boring rhythm of doing things over and over, carrying the wood, drying the dishes.
Such minutiae.
It's what the animals spend most of their time at, ferrying the sand, grain by grain, from their tunnels, shuffling the leaves in their burrows.
He pointed such things out, and I would look at the whorled texture of his square finger, earth under the nail.
Why do I remember it as sunnier all the time then, although it more often rained, and more birdsong? I could hardly wait to get the hell out of there to anywhere else.
Perhaps though boredom is happier.
It is for dogs or groundhogs.
Now I wouldn't be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.


by Margaret Atwood | |

You Take My Hand

 You take my hand and
I'm suddenly in a bad movie,
it goes on and on and 
why am I fascinated

We waltz in slow motion
through an air stale with aphrodisms
we meet behind the endless ptted palms
you climb through the wrong windows

Other people are leaving
but I always stay till the end
I paid my money, I
want to see what happens.
In chance bathtubs I have to peel you off me in the form of smoke and melted celluloid Have to face it I'm finally an addict, the smell of popcorn and worn plush lingers for weeks


by Margaret Atwood | |

A Visit

 Gone are the days
when you could walk on water.
When you could walk.
The days are gone.
Only one day remains, the one you're in.
The memory is no friend.
It can only tell you what you no longer have: a left hand you can use, two feet that walk.
All the brain's gadgets.
Hello, hello.
The one hand that still works grips, won't let go.
That is not a train.
There is no cricket.
Let's not panic.
Let's talk about axes, which kinds are good, the many names of wood.
This is how to build a house, a boat, a tent.
No use; the toolbox refuses to reveal its verbs; the rasp, the plane, the awl, revert to sullen metal.
Do you recognize anything? I said.
Anything familiar? Yes, you said.
The bed.
Better to watch the stream that flows across the floor and is made of sunlight, the forest made of shadows; better to watch the fireplace which is now a beach.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Variation On The Word Sleep

 I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you, sleeping.
I would like to sleep with you, to enter your sleep as its smooth dark wave slides over my head and walk with you through that lucent wavering forest of bluegreen leaves with its watery sun & three moons towards the cave where you must descend, towards your worst fear I would like to give you the silver branch, the small white flower, the one word that will protect you from the grief at the center of your dream, from the grief at the center I would like to follow you up the long stairway again & become the boat that would row you back carefully, a flame in two cupped hands to where your body lies beside me, and as you enter it as easily as breathing in I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only.
I would like to be that unnoticed & that necessary.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Habitation

 Marriage is not 
a house or even a tent 

it is before that, and colder: 

The edge of the forest, the edge 
of the desert 
 the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat 
outside, eating popcorn 

where painfully and with wonder 
at having survived even 
this far 

we are learning to make fire


by Margaret Atwood | |

In The Secular Night

 In the secular night you wander around
alone in your house.
It's two-thirty.
Everyone has deserted you, or this is your story; you remember it from being sixteen, when the others were out somewhere, having a good time, or so you suspected, and you had to baby-sit.
You took a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream and filled up the glass with grapejuice and ginger ale, and put on Glenn Miller with his big-band sound, and lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up the chimney, and cried for a while because you were not dancing, and then danced, by yourself, your mouth circled with purple.
Now, forty years later, things have changed, and it's baby lima beans.
It's necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat at the stated mealtimes.
You simmer them carefully, drain, add cream and pepper, and amble up and down the stairs, scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl, talking to yourself out loud.
You'd be surprised if you got an answer, but that part will come later.
There is so much silence between the words, you say.
You say, The sensed absence of God and the sensed presence amount to much the same thing, only in reverse.
You say, I have too much white clothing.
You start to hum.
Several hundred years ago this could have been mysticism or heresy.
It isn't now.
Outside there are sirens.
Someone's been run over.
The century grinds on.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Postcards

 I'm thinking about you.
What else can I say? The palm trees on the reverse are a delusion; so is the pink sand.
What we have are the usual fractured coke bottles and the smell of backed-up drains, too sweet, like a mango on the verge of rot, which we have also.
The air clear sweat, mosquitoes & their tracks; birds & elusive.
Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one day after the other rolling on; I move up, it's called awake, then down into the uneasy nights but never forward.
The roosters crow for hours before dawn, and a prodded child howls & howls on the pocked road to school.
In the hold with the baggage there are two prisoners, their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates of queasy chicks.
Each spring there's race of cripples, from the store to the church.
This is the sort of junk I carry with me; and a clipping about democracy from the local paper.
Outside the window they're building the damn hotel, nail by nail, someone's crumbling dream.
A universe that includes you can't be all bad, but does it? At this distance you're a mirage, a glossy image fixed in the posture of the last time I saw you.
Turn you over, there's the place for the address.
Wish you were here.
Love comes in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on & on, a hollow cave in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.


by Margaret Atwood | |

Variations on the Word Love

 This is a word we use to plug
holes with.
It's the right size for those warm blanks in speech, for those red heart- shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing like real hearts.
Add lace and you can sell it.
We insert it also in the one empty space on the printed form that comes with no instructions.
There are whole magazines with not much in them but the word love, you can rub it all over your body and you can cook with it too.
How do we know it isn't what goes on at the cool debaucheries of slugs under damp pieces of cardboard? As for the weed- seedlings nosing their tough snouts up among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising their glittering knives in salute.
Then there's the two of us.
This word is far too short for us, it has only four letters, too sparse to fill those deep bare vacuums between the stars that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will have to do.
It's a single vowel in this metallic silence, a mouth that says O again and again in wonder and pain, a breath, a finger grip on a cliffside.
You can hold on or let go.


by Margaret Atwood | |

A Sad Child

 You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic.
It's the age.
It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill, or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll you need to sleep.
Well, all children are sad but some get over it.
Count your blessings.
Better than that, buy a hat.
Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.
Forget what? Your sadness, your shadow, whatever it was that was done to you the day of the lawn party when you came inside flushed with the sun, your mouth sulky with sugar, in your new dress with the ribbon and the ice-cream smear, and said to yourself in the bathroom, I am not the favorite child.
My darling, when it comes right down to it and the light fails and the fog rolls in and you're trapped in your overturned body under a blanket or burning car, and the red flame is seeping out of you and igniting the tarmac beside you head or else the floor, or else the pillow, none of us is; or else we all are.