Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Poetry: 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 descent,
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 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.

I liked this poem because of the playfulness of the words in the first paragraph, where the narrator moves from just being a spectator to being the participant, the Dreamer. There is an intimacy, but there's also a request for permission to dream. And the dream becomes an active process between the two (walking, leading).

The sentence is so powerful. It is as if the narrator had requested permission and now just wants to be there in any form - a necessary form.

I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood's and love her stories, novels and poetry. I don't know how she does it, but every word is carefully placed. I had listened to "Alias Grace" on audiotape and while it was so pleasant to the ear, I kept wishing I had the book in front of me because she's so poetic. (I was listening to her while driving to work, so book wasn't a logical option).

When I read "The Handmaid's Tale" years ago, I couldn't sleep at night because I felt the character's anxieties. I think fiction and dreams blended.

And, if that's not enough Atwood for you, here's more: Gertrude Talks Back giving a voice to Hamlet's mother.


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