Treasure Island

Margaret Atwood

(18 November 1939 / Ottawa, Ontario)

Morning in the Burned House


In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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  • Mimi Brown (8/6/2009 2:00:00 PM)

    If you have ever read Margaret Atwood's prose, you will know exactly where this comes from.Cat's Eye comes to mind. She knows the pain and wonder of memories. How everything from the past maybe gone but still you persist to see how it has made you.
    Atwood is my favorite author bar none. (Report) Reply

  • J L (9/21/2007 8:29:00 AM)

    This poem always makes me thing of the character of Goldie Locks in the 3 Bears story. (Report) Reply

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