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SMALL POEMS FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE / Margaret Atwood A clean page: what shines in you is not nothing, though equally clear & blue and I'm old enough to know I ought to give up wanting to touch that shining. What shines anyway? Stars, cut glass, and water, and you in your serene blue shirt Standing beside a window while it rains, nothing much going on, intangible. To put your hand into the light reveals the hand but the light also: shining is where they touch. Other things made of light: hallucinations & angels. If I reach my hands into you, will you vanish? FREE FALL is falling but at least it's free. I don't even know whether I jumped or was pushed, 18 · The Missouri Review but it hardly matters now I'm up here. No wings or net but for an instant anyway there's a great view: the sea, a line of surf, brown cliffs tufted with scrub, your upturned face a white zero. I wish I knew whether you'll catch or watch. 3. MOUTH TO MOUTH I'm bringing you back to life. Why did you drown like that without telling? What numbed you? What rose over your head was gradual and only everybody's air, standard & killing. Your head floats on your hand, on water, you turn over, your heart returns unsteadily to its two strong notes. I'm bringing you back to life, it's mutual. Towards my chill house in this sloppy weather, hands on the cold wheel, hoping there'll be a fire; slush on the grass, past an accident, then another. Somewhere there's one more, mine. In a minuet we just miss each other, in an accident we don't. Dance is intentional but did you miss me or not, was it too close to the bone for you, was that Margaret Atwood The Missouri Review · 19 pain, am I gone? Nothing's broken, nevertheless I'm skinless, the gentlest touch would gut me. Slowly, slowly, nobody wants a mess. I float over the black roads, pure ice. 5. No way clear, I write on the lines across this yellow paper. Poetry. It's details like this that drag at me, and the nasty little bells on the corners I pass on my way to meet you: singing of hunger, darkness & poverty. 6. The weeks blink out, the winter solstice with its killed pine branches and tiny desperate fires is almost upon us again & again, in fifty versions: the trees turn dull blue, the fields dun for the last time. We have a minute, maybe two in which we're walking together towards the edge of that evergreen forest we'll never enter through the drifted snow which is no colour, which has just fallen, which has just fallen, on which we will leave no footprints. 20 · The Missouri Review Margaret Atwood 7. This poem is mournful & sentimental & filled with complaints: where were you? When I needed you. I'd like to make a bouquet of nice clean words for you, hand it to you and walk away, function accomplished. I can't do it. This is the shortest day of the year, shrunken, blueveined & cold, deafmute. That's me on the corner, sleet down my neck, wordless. Where are you? You think I live in a glass tower where the phone doesn't ring and nobody eats? But it does, they do and leave the crumbs & greasy knives. In the front room dogsmells filter through the door dirty fur coats & the insides of carnivore throats. Neglect & disarray, cold ashes drift from the woodstove onto the floor. Cats with their melting spines festoon themselves in every empty corner. Who's fed them? Who knows? What I want you to see is the banality of all this, even while I write the doorbell pounds down there, constant assaults of the radio, one more blameless crushed face, another pair of boots drips in the hall. Margaret Atwood The Missouri Review · 22 There's no mystery, I want to tell you, none at all, no more than in anything else. What I do is ordinary, no surprise, like you no trickier than sunrise. 9. Some would...


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