Wednesday, September 1, 2010

G ULF_Elegy

G  ULF_Elegy for the Giant Turtles
from the poem by Margaret Atwood
Oil & pencil on paper
760 x 525MM (vx h)
The work is available from The Arthouse


Let others pray for the passenger pigeon
the dodo, the whooping crane, the eskimo:
everyone must specialize

I will confine myself to a meditation
upon the giant tortoises
withering finally on a remote island.

I concentrate in subway stations,
in parks, I can't quite see them,
they move to the peripheries of my eyes

but on the last day they will be there;
already the event
like a wave traveling shapes vision:

on the road where I stand they will materialize,
plodding past me in a straggling line
awkward without water

their small heads pondering
from side to side, their useless armour
sadder than tanks and history,

in their closed gaze ocean and sunlight paralyzed,
lumbering up the steps, under the archways
toward the square glass altars

where the brittle gods are kept,
the relics of what we have destroyed,
our holy and obsolete symbols.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's website is a roomy place that, amongst its many treasures, offers generous resources for writers (ref. Negotiating with the Dead: A writer on writing). She has also included 'links of interest', photographs, media clips, podcasts of interviews, reviews, readings. . .

Remarkably, she wrote ELEGY FOR THE GIANT TORTOISES in 1968.



  1. Such beautiful, terrible eloquence, Claire. Thank you for letting us see them. May they do their hidden work in hearts and minds.

  2. Hi Pen friend
    Margaret's words were miraculously portentous. . . terrible eloquence, as you say. Foresight such as she expressed here can - must? - be recognized as beautiful, too. . . it wakes us up. And heaven knows, we need waking. . . At least, I do! Better we be gently and firmly nudged into action than violently shaken? Love to you and your work, too. X