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A VISIT

By Margaret Atwood


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.


Margaret Atwood is the author of numerous books, including The Robber Bride (1993). A new volume of her poems, Morning in the Burned House, will be published this fall.


Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1995; A Visit; Volume 275, No. 5; page 76.

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