The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

in the UK from Eating Fire (Virago, 1998) © Margaret Atwood 1998; in the US from Selected Poems I (Houghton Mifflin, 1976), © 1976 Margaret Atwood, and from Selected Poems II (Houghton Mifflin, 1987), © 1987 Margaret Atwood, used by permission of the author.

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1This is a Photograph of Me

2Journey to the Interior

3The Settlers

4Speeches for Dr Frankenstein

5Disembarking at Quebec

6The Planters

7The Two Fires

8Death of a Young Son by Drowning

9The Immigrants

11Thoughts from Underground

12Pig Song

13Siren Song

14Song of the Hen's Head

15The woman who could not live with her faulty heart

16All Bread

17You Begin

18Variation on the Word Sleep



22Miss July Grows Older

23The Loneliness of the Military Historian

24King Lear in Respite Care


26The Moment

27Morning in the Burned House

10Visit to Toronto, with Companions

20A Sad Child