Margaret Atwood

(18 November 1939 / Ottawa, Ontario)

A Sad Child - Poem by Margaret Atwood

You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.

Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside your head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.


Comments about A Sad Child by Margaret Atwood

  • Suresh Raavi (6/22/2017 12:05:00 AM)


    Beautiful & lovely poem (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Robert Murray Smith (5/5/2017 11:25:00 PM)


    A nice positive poem.10 (Report) Reply

  • Tapan M. Saren (4/17/2017 4:31:00 AM)


    Beautiful poem.......... (Report) Reply

  • Robert Murray Smith (3/21/2017 12:56:00 AM)


    I liked your direct no holds barred approach. (Report) Reply

  • Prem Katoch (11/23/2016 10:02:00 PM)

    A Sad Child
    It moves -so intimate and experiential. (Report) Reply

  • Pallang Mofokeng (9/28/2016 1:41:00 AM)

    i lOVE THIS
    Well, all children are sad
    but some get over it.
    Count your blessings. Better than that,
    buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
    Take up dancing to forget.
    (Report) Reply

  • (2/2/2016 1:54:00 PM)


    I this this poem is about child sexual abuse and the effects of it later. It speaksof how our society is also trapped in our terror of not being able to reconcile it, instead blame, and use 'mechanisms of ignore' to address the victim. (Report) Reply

  • (2/2/2016 1:48:00 PM)


    I think this poem is about child sexual abuse and what happens when realization of terror occurs. Our society is super warped and also trapped because of the mechanisms of ignore exist! (Report) Reply

  • (3/23/2015 7:50:00 AM)


    Oh my God! How incredibly wonderful this is. Every inch of me, every desire - is to be able to write such loveliness - which apparently escapes from dear Margaret without effort at all... Goodness, I just looked down and see my name on a previous comment! Love is love, I guess, and can not change regardless of its name... (Report) Reply

  • (2/2/2015 8:52:00 AM)


    Completely entrancing! Margaret, if you are reading this: Bravo! Unsaid things said out loud! (Report) Reply

  • (2/2/2015 8:52:00 AM)


    Completely entrancing! Margaret, if you are reading this: Bravo! Unsaid things said out loud! (Report) Reply

  • (10/3/2014 1:22:00 AM)


    I think the poem relating to sadness and taking pills is actually a kind of depressive mood the child suffers. The poem with such beauty of words really appreciable and beautiful to recite also. (Report) Reply

  • Richard Provencher (8/31/2014 7:15:00 PM)


    I really like this poem. It floats like a butterfly through thought patterns from a parent, concerned of the emotional changes a growing child goes through. (Report) Reply

  • (6/6/2014 5:00:00 PM)


    .........the poetess must be saying.....to fully live our lives, we all need sadness so we can appreciate the happiness.... (Report) Reply

  • Mohammed Abdalla (10/20/2010 12:12:00 AM)


    This poem is just awesome
    I love everything about it.
    (Report) Reply

  • Mehta Hasmukh Amathalal (7/23/2010 7:50:00 PM)


    You're sad because you're sad.
    It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
    Go see a shrink or take a pill,
    or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
    you need to sleep.failure is overcome by constant efforts.. nicely worded poem....10
    (Report) Reply

  • (7/18/2009 4:20:00 AM)


    The poem is about failure and how to face it. In this society we all have to be great, happy...but life is also sadness, and a person (a child in the poem) could feel a failure as a terrible moment (represented by the flames, etc) ...so I believe the poet is showing us that we have to move on. We should feel sadness as part of our life and never see it as a tragedy. (Report) Reply

  • (2/7/2009 4:17:00 PM)


    I think this poem is also an analysis of our society and human interaction. Think of mental illness when she says the get over yourself comment. It is about how we actually don't understand, nor know how to deal with the problems or challenges of others (big or small) and so we try to buy these people off. make them feel good with materialism, or simply try to shut them up. (Report) Reply

  • (2/19/2008 4:27:00 AM)


    I agree that it is a reflection on death and how equalizing it is. I also think that it has theological implications too. How many times have we asked that we are not the favorite child because we feel the universe (or God) has singled us out for punishment? We who are kind, or try to be kind, and good and self-effacing? While others (the wicked, more often than not) are rewarded? But, to paraphrase, 'God lets the rain pour and the sun shine on both the wicked and the good.' Nobody is the favorite; otherwise, we all are 'favorites.' (Report) Reply

  • (10/17/2007 7:14:00 AM)


    Hmm, I see it as a meditation on death itself, how it is an equalizing force and it pays no favors to anyone. Hence, Atwood seems to be offering a somewhat disquieting source of comfort to an otherwise unfair world ruled by favoritism and sadness. I mean that's what i think the theme of the poem is although it's quite easy to be carried away by the first few stanzas and to be deceived into thinking that it's merely about how children are so neglected and unwanted nowadays.

    I love the poem although i do find it quite fatalistic
    (Report) Reply

Read all 26 comments »

# 107 poem on top 500 Poems

User Rating:
3,8 / 5 ( 108 votes ) 26



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: sad, fog, car, children, child, red, sleep, sun, light, dance



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Monday, April 6, 2015


[Report Error]