A volume of poetry
by Margaret Atwood
, published in 1988, and its title poem
, the last in the book.
The volume begins with eleven Snake Poems, incorporating an earlier small-press edition. These are indeed all about snakes, about handling them, eating them, smelling them, legends of metempsychosis and the pictures of the Quattrocento.
In the main part of the volume, her imagery is of lakes, trees, silence, uncertainty, memory, vacancy, nameless things. She explores the legends of Orpheus and Eurydice, of Persephone, and the images of Hieronymus Bosch.
Here is the opening of "Letters from the House of Questions".
Everything about me is broken.
Even my fingers, forming
these words in the dust
a bootprint will wipe out in the morning,
even these words. Even, almost,
my will to do anything.
I would spend the rest of my life
in a house corner, in the sun.
If there were a house. If there were sun.
The closing poem, "Interlunar", ends like this:
We have come to the edge:
the lake gives off its hush;
in the outer night there is a barred owl
calling, like a moth
against the ear, from the far shore
which is invisible.
The lake, vast and dimensionless,
doubles everything, the stars,
the boulders, itself, even the darkness
that you can walk so long in
it becomes light.