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By Margaret Atwood


In view of the fading animals

the proliferation of sewers and fears   

the sea clogging, the air

nearing extinction

we should be kind, we should

take warning, we should forgive each other

Instead we are opposite, we   

touch as though attacking,

the gifts we bring

even in good faith maybe   

warp in our hands to

implements, to manoeuvres


Put down the target of me

you guard inside your binoculars,   

in turn I will surrender

this aerial photograph   

(your vulnerable

sections marked in red)   

I have found so useful

See, we are alone in

the dormant field, the snow

that cannot be eaten or captured


Here there are no armies   

here there is no money

It is cold and getting colder,

We need each others’

breathing, warmth, surviving   

is the only war

we can afford, stay

walking with me, there is almost   

time / if we can only   

make it as far as

the (possibly) last summer

Margaret Atwood, “They are hostile nations” 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 Harcourt, 1976)

  • Living

Poet Bio

Margaret Atwood
Born in Ottawa, Canada, Margaret Atwood is one of the most prominent literary figures of her country. She has published prolifically in several genres, including over 10 novels, six collections of stories, and 15 books of poetry. The recipient of numerous awards, Atwood wrote Morning in the Burned House, published in 1995, which was a co-winner of the Trillium Award. See More By This Poet

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