In that country the animals
have the faces of people:

the ceremonial
cats possessing the streets

the fox run
politely to earth, the huntsmen
standing around him, fixed
in their tapestry of manners

the bull, embroidered
with blood and given
an elegant death, trumpets, his name
stamped on him, heraldic brand
because

(when he rolled
on the sand, sword in his heart, the teeth
in his blue mouth were human)

he is really a man

even the wolves, holding resonant
conversations in their
forests thickened with legend.

            In this country the animals
            have the faces of
            animals.

            Their eyes
            flash once in car headlights
            and are gone.

            Their deaths are not elegant.

            They have the faces of
            no-one.

  • Margaret Atwood, “The animals in that country” from Selected Poems 1965-1975. Copyright © 1974, 1976 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  • Source: Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976)

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