“The Double Voice” by Margaret Atwood

the double voice1

Two voices
took turns using my eyes:
One had manners,
painted in watercolours
used hushed tones when speaking
of mountains or Niagara Falls,
composed uplifting verse
and expended sentiment upon the poor.

The other voice
had other knowledge:
that men sweat
always and drink often,
that pigs are pigs
but must be eaten
anyway, that unborn babies
fester like wounds in the body,
that there is nothing to be done
about mosquitoes;

One saw through my
bleared and gradually
bleaching eyes, red leaves,
the rituals of seasons and rivers

The other found a dead dog
jubilant with maggots
half-buried among the sweet peas.



Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM. She currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

“The Double Voice” by Margaret Atwood, used by permission of the Author. Available in the following collections: In the United States, SELECTED POEMS I, 1965–1975, published by Houghton Mifflin, ©Margaret Atwood 1976; In Canada, SELECTED POEMS, 1966–1984, published by McClelland and Stewart, ©Margaret Atwood 1990; In the UK, EATING FIRE, published by Virago Books, ©Margaret Atwood 1998.

See also Showcasing the Work of Margaret Atwood.

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