I’ve touched on Margaret Atwood’s excellent work in the past. From her amazing work in The Handmaid’s Tale to her excellent discussion of science fiction as a whole in In Other Worlds, Atwood is consistently one of the best writers working today. She strikes an incredible balance between crafting amazingly readable stories and full-formed characters while interjecting some serious philosophical discussions about everything from the treatment of women in society to the ethics behind the bio-sciences.
Atwood brings that same sense of the world to her poetry; taking tried tropes and turning them on their head. That is certainly true with today’s National Poetry Month entry.
Backdrop addresses cowboy
Starspangled cowboysauntering out of the almost-silly West, on your facea porcelain grin,tugging a papier-mâché cactuson wheels behind you with a string,
you are innocent as a bathtubfull of bullets.
Your righteous eyes, your laconictrigger-fingerspeople the streets with villains:as you move, the air in front of youblossoms with targets
and you leave behind you a heroictrail of desolation:beer bottlesslaughtered by the sideof the road, bird-skulls bleaching in the sunset.
I ought to be watchingfrom behind a cliff or a cardboard storefrontwhen the shooting starts, hands claspedin admiration,but I am elsewhere.
Then what about me
what about the Iconfronting you on that border,you are always trying to cross?
I am the horizonyou ride towards, the thing you can never lasso
I am also what surrounds you:my brainscattered with yourtincans, bones, empty shells,the litter of your invasions.
I am the space you desecrateas you pass through.
Interested in reading more Atwood? In addition to the two above mentioned books, be sure to check out the Maddadam trilogy. Each book in the series gets better and better and Atwood is a master at interweaving various time periods, characters, and plot points to create an entirely satisfying and thought provoking read.