poet Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

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In The Secular Night

In the secular night you wander around
alone in your house. It's two-thirty.
Everyone has deserted you,
or this is your story;
you remember it from being sixteen,
when the others were out somewhere, having a good time,
or so you suspected,
and you had to baby-sit.
You took a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream
and filled up the glass with grapejuice
and ginger ale, and put on Glenn Miller
with his big-band sound,
and lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up the chimney,
and cried for a while because you were not dancing,
and then danced, by yourself, your mouth circled with purple.

Now, forty years later, things have changed,
and it's baby lima beans.
It's necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You'd be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.

There is so much silence between the words,
you say. You say, The sensed absence
of God and the sensed presence
amount to much the same thing,
only in reverse.
You say, I have too much white clothing.
You start to hum.
Several hundred years ago
this could have been mysticism
or heresy. It isn't now.
Outside there are sirens.
Someone's been run over.
The century grinds on.

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

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Comments about In The Secular Night by Margaret Atwood

  • Mahtab BangaleeMahtab Bangalee (8/18/2020 11:46:00 PM)

    everything in the gyre of evolution, revolution of time, nature, materialistic life; everyone and everything from the flora and fauna of this world here on this earth live as not static or stable for everlasting or eternally; here on this earth everything and everyone varies place to place, time to time, person or things to person to things; everything is not suitable for everyone in one or all time......

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  • Mahtab BangaleeMahtab Bangalee (8/18/2020 11:46:00 PM)

    Several hundred years ago
    this could have been mysticism
    or heresy. It isn't now......this poem greatly written this poem; thought provoking on the secularism

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  • Deepak Kumar Pattanayak (8/18/2020 11:41:00 PM)

    Very well narrated of someone's life, the reality once may look like a mystery, an unbelievable thing 10++

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  • Khairul AhsanKhairul Ahsan (8/18/2020 11:33:00 PM)

    'The century grinds on' - a profound perception! True!

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  • doug scotney (8/18/2020 7:45:00 PM)

    thanks be for change...

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  • Ruta MohapatraRuta Mohapatra (8/18/2020 9:00:00 AM)

    The human situation! Thanks for sharing!

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  • Dr Tony BrahminDr Tony Brahmin (4/19/2020 2:56:00 AM)

    There is so much silence between the words,
    you say. You say, The sensed absence
    of God and the sensed presence
    amount to much the same thing, a very good poem. tony

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  • Mohit KatyalMohit Katyal (7/12/2017 2:40:00 AM)

    truly its just awesome..

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  • Sylvaonyema UbaSylvaonyema Uba (2/11/2017 11:28:00 PM)

    ..the sensed absence
    Beautiful poem!

    Sylva

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  • Not a member No 4 (1/29/2007 4:06:00 AM)

    Someone's real life in this on-rolling world. Authentic, three dimensional, convincingly detailed - a little bit of all of us in this. Loved 'but that part will come later'. Earlier than you'd expect though! This is great. I can see why she's such an influence on PH writers.

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Read poems about / on: baby, purple, silence, remember, house, alone, night, god, dance, change, running