You walked in front of me,
pulling me back out
to the green light that had once
grown fangs and killed me.
I was obedient, but
numb, like an arm
gone to sleep; the return
to time was not my choice.
By then I was used to silence.
Though something stretched between us
like a whisper, like a rope:
my former name,
You had your old leash
with you, love you might call it,
and your flesh voice.
Before your eyes you held steady
the image of what you wanted
me to become: living again.
It was this hope of yours that kept me following.
I was your hallucination, listening
and floral, and you were singing me:
already new skin was forming on me
within the luminous misty shroud
of my other body; already
there was dirt on my hands and I was thirsty.
I could see only the outline
of your head and shoulders,
black against the cave mouth,
and so could not see your face
at all, when you turned
and called to me because you had
already lost me. The last
I saw of you was a dark oval.
Though I knew how this failure
would hurt you, I had to
fold like a gray moth and let go.
You could not believe I was more than your echo.
He is here, come down to look for you.
It is the song that calls you back,
a song of joy and suffering
equally: a promise:
that things will be different up there
than they were last time.
You would rather have gone on feeling nothing,
emptiness and silence; the stagnant peace
of the deepest sea, which is easier
than the noise and flesh of the surface.
You are used to these blanched dim corridors,
you are used to the king
who passes you without speaking.
The other one is different
and you almost remember him.
He says he is singing to you
because he loves you,
not as you are now,
so chilled and minimal: moving and still
both, like a white curtain blowing
in the draft from a half-opened window
beside a chair on which nobody sits.
He wants you to be what he calls real.
He wants you to stop light.
He wants to feel himself thickening
like a treetrunk or a haunch
and see blood on his eyelids
when he closes them, and the sun beating.
This love of his is not something
he can do if you aren’t there,
but what you knew suddenly as you left your body
cooling and whitening on the lawn
was that you love him anywhere,
even in this land of no memory,
even in this domain of hunger.
You hold love in your hand, a red seed
you had forgotten you were holding.
He has come almost too far.
He cannot believe without seeing,
and it’s dark here.
Go back, you whisper,
but he wants to be fed again
by you. O handful of gauze, little
bandage, handful of cold
air, it is not through him
you will get your freedom.
Whether he will go on singing
or not, knowing what he knows
of the horror of this world:
He was not wandering among meadows
all this time. He was down there
among the mouthless ones, among
those with no fingers, those
whose names are forbidden,
those washed up eaten into
among the gray stones
of the shore where nobody goes
through fear. Those with silence.
He has been trying to sing
love into existence again
and he has failed.
Yet he will continue
to sing, in the stadium
crowded with the already dead
who raise their eyeless faces
to listen to him; while the red flowers
grow up and splatter open
against the walls.
They have cut off both his hands
and soon they will tear
his head from his body in one burst
of furious refusal.
He foresees this. Yet he will go on
singing, and in praise.
To sing is either praise
or defiance. Praise is defiance.
By Margaret Atwood