Margaret Atwood

(18 November 1939 / Ottawa, Ontario)

Variation On The Word Sleep - Poem by Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

Comments about Variation On The Word Sleep by Margaret Atwood

  • Des Monia (2/16/2019 9:26:00 AM)

    " towards the cave where you must descend, towards your worst fear" - beautifully constructed poem. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • (2/4/2018 11:00:00 AM)

    It's not necessary to pause after each line of poetry (Report) Reply

  • (12/25/2017 6:01:00 AM)

    It is not that easy to understand the poem though it looks very simple. Atwood has the uncanny knack of composing poems the meaning of which will be hidden and the reader has the liberty to deduce the meaning as far his imagination can go. (Report) Reply

  • (10/1/2014 10:17:00 AM)

    This is an amazing poem. To what extant the poet prevails over her unidentified subject through self-abnegation is for the individual reader to determine, according to his or her degree of cynicism. But it can be happily read at face value. Has a mythic scariness. MM (Report) Reply

  • (10/23/2007 10:43:00 PM)

    pretty much I have no words to tell you how much I adore this poem... (Report) Reply

  • (12/15/2005 11:55:00 AM)

    This poem may be enjoyed as a vision of the divine entering your subconscious and leading you through hell to your ultimate destiny in heaven - an encore of Dante's spiritual pilgrimage.

    One can cherish the poem as a scriptural tour de force.

    CR Mittal
    (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: grief, sleep, flower, silver, dream, fear, dark, sun

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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