‘Because We Love Bare Hills and Stunted Trees’ by Margaret Atwood

Because we love bare hills and stunted trees

we head north when we can,

past taiga, tundra, rocky shoreline, ice.


Where does it come from, this sparse taste

of ours? How long

did we roam this hardscape, learning by heart

all that we used to know:

turn skin fur side in,

partner with wolves, eat fat, hate waste,

carve spirit, respect the snow,

build and guard flame?


Everything once had a soul,

even this clam, this pebble.

Each had a secret name.

Everything listened.

Everything was real,

but didn’t always love you.

You needed to take care.

We long to go back there,

or so we like to feel

when it’s not too cold.

We long to pay that much attention.

But we’ve lost the knack;

also there’s other music.

All we hear in the wind’s plainsong

is the wind.


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