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.