Earth does such things
to itself: furrowing, cracking apart, bursting
into flame. It rips openings in itself, which it struggles
(or not) to skin over. The moon
doesn’t care about its own
craters and bruises. Only we can regret
the perishing of the burned place.
Only we could call it a wound.
Margaret Atwood, Morning in the Burned House: A Fire Place
SLYTHERIN: “Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” -Margaret Atwood (The Penelopiad)
The dark soft languages are being silenced: Mothertongue Mothertongue Mothertongue falling one by one back into the moon. Language of marshes, language of the roots of rushes tangled together in the ooze, marrow cells twinning themselves inside the warm core of the bone: pathways of hidden light in the body fade and wink out.
The sibilants and gutturals, the cave language, the half-light forming at the back of the throat, the mouths damp velvet moulding the lost syllable for “I” that did not mean separate, all are becoming sounds no longer heard because no longer spoken, and everything that could once be said in them has ceased to exist.
Margaret Atwood, from “Marsh Languages,” Morning in the Burned House (Houghton Mifflin, 1995)
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, (wearing the Greville Tiara and the Greville Emerald Neckalce) and Princess Margaret (wearing the Poltimore Tiara) attend the Ballet Performance in honour of the Shah of Iran at the Royal Opera House in London, 1959.
Winter. Time to eat fat and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat, a black fur sausage with yellow Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries to get onto my head. It’s his way of telling whether or not I’m dead. If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am He’ll think of something. He settles on my chest, breathing his breath of burped-up meat and musty sofas, purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat, not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door, declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory, which are what will finish us off in the long run. Some cat owners around here should snip a few testicles. If we wise hominids were sensible, we’d do that too, or eat our young, like sharks. But it’s love that does us in. Over and over again, He shoots, he scores! and famine crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits thirty below, and pollution pours out of our chimneys to keep us warm. February, month of despair, with a skewered heart in the centre. I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries with a splash of vinegar. Cat, enough of your greedy whining and your small pink bumhole. Off my face! You’re the life principle, more or less, so get going on a little optimism around here. Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring. —Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House