Friday, February 15, 2008

The Tent

By Margaret Atwood.
Frankly, kind of forgettable. But, it is a compilation, and I'm really hurting for a novel, so it may be my fault and not hers. There were several notable passages, this poem being my favourite:

Bring Back Mom: An Invocation

Bring back Mom.
bread-baking Mom, in her crisp gigham apron
just like the aprons we sewed for her
in our Home Economics classes
and gave to her for a surprise
on Mother's Day--

Mom, who didn't have a job
because why would she need one,
who made our school lunches--
the tuna sandwich, the apple,
the oatmeal cookies wrapped in wax paper--
with the rubber band she'd saved in a jar;
who was always home when we got there
doing the ironing
or something equally boring,

who smiled the weak smile of a trapped drudge
as we slid past her,
heading for the phone,
filled with surliness and contempt
and the resolve never to be like her.

Bring back Mom.
who wanted to be a concert pianist
but never had the chance
and made us take piano lessons,
which we resented--

Mom, whose aspic rings
and Jello saladsd we ate with greed,
though later derided--
pot-roasting Mom, expert with onions
though anxious in the face of garlic,
who recieved a brand-new frying pan
from us each Christmas--
just what she wanted--

Mom, her dark lipsticked mouth
smiling in the black-and-white
soap ads, the Aspirin ads, the toilet paper ads,
Mom, with her secret life
of headaches and stained washing
and irritated membranes--
Mom, who knew the dirt,
and hid the dirt, and did the dirty work,
and never saw herself
or us as clean enough--

and who believed
that there was other dirt
you shouldn't tell to children,
and didn't tell it,
which was dangerous only later.


We miss you, Mom,
though you were reviled to great profit
in magazines and books
for ruining your children
-that would be us-
by not loving them enough,
by loving them too much,
by wanting too much love from them,
by some failure of love--

(Mom, whose husband left her
for his secretary and paid alimony,
Mom, who drank in solitude
in the afternoons, watching TV,
who dyed her hair an implausible
shade of red, who flirted
with her friends' husbands at parties,
trying with all her might
not to sink below the line
between chin up and despair--

and who was carted away
and locked up, because one day
she began screaming and wouldn't stop,
and did something very bad
with the kitchen scissors--

But that wasn't you, not you, not
the Mom we had in mind, it was
the nutty lady down the street--
it was just some lady
who became a casualty
of unseen accidents,
and then a lurid story...)

Come back, come back, oh Mom,
from craziness or death
or our won damaged memory--
appear as you were:

Queen of the waffle iron,
generous dispenser of toothpaste,
sorceress of Mercurorochrome,
player of games of smoky bridge
at which you won second-prize dishtowels,
brooder over the darning egg
that hatched nothing but socks,
boiler of horrible porridge--
climb back onto the cake-mix package,
look brisk and competent, the way you used to--

If only we could call you--
'Here Mom, Here Mom'--
and you would come clip-clopping
on your daytime Cuban heels,
smelling of sink and lilac,
(your bum encased in the foundation garment
you'd peel off at night
with a sigh like a marsh exhaling),
saying, 'What is it now,'
and we could catch you
in a net, and cage you
in your bungalow, where you belong,
and make you stay--

Then everything would be all right
the way it was when we could play
till after dark on spring evenings,
then sleep without fear
because you threw yourself in front of the fear
and stopped it with your body--

And there you'll be, in your cotton housecoat,
holding a wooden peg
between your teeth, as the washing flaps
on the clothesline you once briefly considered
hanging yourself with--

but forget that! There you'll be,
singing a song of your own youth
as though no time has passed,
and we can be careless again,
and embarrassed by you,
and ignore you as we used to,

and the holes in the world will be mended.