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Postcard -- Margaret Atwood

(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.
-- Margaret Atwood
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>).


[broken link]

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


  [broken link] is an excellent resource for all things
  Atwood. Don't miss "On writing poetry (recent lecture)" is another nice Atwood page

  Atwood's novel "The Blind Assassin" won the 2000 Booker:
    [broken link]


27 comments: ( or Leave a comment )



Busana Muslim said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

Jasa Penerjemah Tersumpah | Jasa Penerjemah | Penerjemah Resmi said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

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Atwood was at one time offended at the suggestion that The Handmaid's Tale or Oryx and Crake were science fiction, I think that she is really important to the people !!1 the poems are wonderful!22dd

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