(Poem #786) Postcard
I'm thinking of 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, mosquitos & their tracks; birds, blue & elusive. Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one day after the other rolling on; I move up, its 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 a 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 and pounding, a kicked ear.
A vivid poem that takes the cheery, cliched, 'wish you were here' image of a postcard and turns it inside out. One of the things that makes Atwood's work a pleasure to read is her keen eye for detail, a trait very much in evidence in 'Postcard'. The appeal to several senses (sight, smell, hearing) gives the scene a visceral edge that contrasts with the static image of the Other - and highlights the point that the glossy image on the postcard is, to the sender, far more real than the person on the other side. The whole poem is threaded through with images of decay and sickness, an unsettling harmony that ties the "I'm thinking of you" in the beginning to the "Love comes in waves ... a sickness which goes on/ & on ..." in the last four lines. And though I'm not usually too fond of free verse, it works well here, the uneven rhythms of the verse carrying the poem along at precisely the right pace. What I like most about Atwood, though, is her brilliant use of language. This, combined with the aforementioned eye for detail, shows up most strongly in her prose ('Good Bones' is one of the best collections of short pieces I've read), but it is very much in evidence in today's poem, with phrases like A universe that includes you can't be all that bad, but does it? and "time comes in waves here, a sickness, one day after the other rolling on" (I know the feeling <g>). Biography: [broken link] http://www.web.net/owtoad/biog.html And a quote from Atwood on her two unauthorized biographies: I don't think biographies of living people should be written. I am not dead yet. Oddly enough, you can't stop anyone from writing a biography of you." Links: [broken link] http://www.web.net/owtoad/toc.html is an excellent resource for all things Atwood. Don't miss "On writing poetry (recent lecture)" http://www.pc-works.net/nascitur/atwood.html is another nice Atwood page Atwood's novel "The Blind Assassin" won the 2000 Booker: [broken link] http://publishing.about.com/arts/publishing/library/weekly/aa110700a.htm m.