Margaret Atwood

Against Still Life

Orange in the middle of a table: It isn’t enough to walk around it at a distance, saying it’s an orange: nothing to do with us, nothing else: leave it alone I want to pick it up in my hand I want to peel the skin off; I want more to be said to me than just Orange: want to be told everything it has to say And you, sitting across the table, at a distance, with your smile contained, and like the orange in the sun: silent: Your silence isn’t enough for me now, no matter with what contentment you fold your hands are together; I want anything you can say in the sunlight: stories of your various childhoods, aimless journeyings, your loves; your articulate skeleton; your posturings; your lies. These orange silences (sunlight and hidden smile) make me want to wrench you into saying; now I’d crack your skull like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin to make you talk, or get a look inside But quietly: if I take the orange with care enough and hold it gently I may find an egg a sun an orange moon perhaps a skull; centre of all energy resting in my hand can change it to whatever I desire it to be and you, man, orange afternoon lover, wherever you sit across from me (tables, trains, buses) If I watch quietly enough and long enough at last, you will say (maybe without speaking) (there are mountains inside your skull garden and chaos, ocean and hurricane; certain corners of rooms, portraits of great-grandmothers, curtains of a particular shade; your deserts; your private dinosaurs; the first woman) all I need to know: tell me everything just as it was from the beginning.

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