Margaret Atwood

Ottawa, Ontario
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Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

Rating: 4.2
The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they'd say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I've a choice
of how, and I'll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it's all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything's for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can't. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape's been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there's only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it's the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can't hear them.
And I can't, because I'm after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don't let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I'll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That's what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.
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COMMENTS
Khairul Ahsan 23 October 2020
'They'd like to see through me, but nothing is more opaque than absolute transparency.' - A strong, powerful statement!
1 0 Reply
Sarah 13 March 2021
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0 0 Reply
Kumarmani Mahakul 23 October 2020
Women should get their rights and wage. There should be women empowerment. This poem is very nice and excellently penned. A perfect modern poem of the day is chosen.
2 0 Reply
A gleaming beautiful poem
0 0 Reply
Edward Kofi Louis 23 October 2020
Stage, sage, wage! ! ! To give value; The world is full of women! ?? Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
0 0 Reply
Erin Cowart 18 August 2020
What an immensely powerful poem!
0 0 Reply
David Marley 02 December 2019
Yes. Powerful stuff. Peggy is good at putting herself in other shoes. This could almost be an anthem for workers.
0 0 Reply
Abel Chukwu 09 June 2017
Wow this is awesome. Touch me and you will burn. So thrilling
1 0 Reply
Sylvaonyema Uba 11 February 2017
This is a torch song... Well expressed! Sylva
0 0 Reply
Oduro Bright Amoh 05 October 2014
Nothing is so opaque as absolute transparency. Wow
7 2 Reply
Ovi Odiete 05 October 2014
this is one great poem, so enthralling.
3 2 Reply

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