Margaret Atwood changed my mind.

b. 1939 Margaret Atwood

Apparently, there is some talk about who Margaret Atwood is and if it matters if the mayor of Canada’s largest city knows who she is, yadda, yadda, yadda…  All I know is when I was a teenager I read a poem that made me think in a way I had not previously. It bore a hole right through my brain that has forever caused me to be open to new ways of looking at things.For that alone I will always know Margaret Atwood. I will know her not as a personal friend, or even as a “Canadian Personage” but as a reluctance in my mind to accept blindly the understanding of reality that is doled out with cultural meat pies. The animals in that country 

In that country the animals   

have the faces of people:
the ceremonial
cats possessing the streets
the fox run
politely to earth, the huntsmen   
standing around him, fixed   
in their tapestry of manners
the bull, embroidered
with blood and given
an elegant death, trumpets, his name   
stamped on him, heraldic brand   
(when he rolled
on the sand, sword in his heart, the teeth   
in his blue mouth were human)
he is really a man
even the wolves, holding resonant   
conversations in their   
forests thickened with legend.
 In this country the animals   
            have the faces of   
Their eyes
            flash once in car headlights   
            and are gone.
Their deaths are not elegant.
            They have the faces of   
Now you might think that I am against eating animals, the fact is “animals” are us and included in “us” are other “animals” who are eating us.  Largely what, or who, is an animal is based on our definitions and our definitions change because of our attitudes. 

Being aware that even the definition of our “personhood” is subjected to popular concensus is a frightening thought. Nevertheless as much as we can, we need to penetrate the meaning.  It seems to be, as human beings, our inheritance.

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