Margaret Atwood

(18 November 1939 / Ottawa, Ontario)

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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Anthony Zugay (1/14/2013 6:39:00 PM)

    Sounds like this poem is about a father or spouse who had a debilitating stroke. He can't use his left hand due to paralysis of that part of his brain where the stroke hit hardest. He seems to have been a Skilled carpenter. Hence all of the parts about tools and building things and types of wood. The Jesu symbol is there too. He was a carpenter also.Biblically speaking hetoo could walk on water. The person Atwood is visiting is bed-ridden and mentaly fading because of the devastating stroke. She appears to have looked at this person at one time as some sort of savior figure. By the way she mentions how person used too walk on water. Daddy's daily miracles for Daddy's little girl. Sad but touching. (Report) Reply

  • Eltee Common (3/15/2011 3:34:00 PM)

    at the beginning i thought i understood the poem but later on it gets confusing... (Report) Reply

  • Teresa Ralph (11/19/2006 12:09:00 PM)

    Does anyone know what year she wrote this poem? I am planning on using for an English Assignment.
    thanks (Report) Reply

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