It was taken some time ago. At first it seems to be a smeared print: blurred lines and grey flecks blended with the paper; then, as you scan it, you see in the left-hand corner a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree (balsam or spruce) emerging and, to the right, halfway up what ought to be a gentle slope, a small frame house. In the background there is a lake, and beyond that, some low hills. (The photograph was taken the day after I drowned. I am in the lake, in the center of the picture, just under the surface. It is difficult to say where precisely, or to say how large or small I am: the effect of water on light is a distortion but if you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me.)
Margaret Atwood - 1939-
Morning in the Burned House
In the burned house I am eating breakfast. You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast, yet here I am. The spoon which was melted scrapes against the bowl which was melted also. No one else is around. Where have they gone to, brother and sister, mother and father? Off along the shore, perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers, their dishes piled beside the sink, which is beside the woodstove with its grate and sooty kettle, every detail clear, tin cup and rippled mirror. The day is bright and songless, the lake is blue, the forest watchful. In the east a bank of cloud rises up silently like dark bread. I can see the swirls in the oilcloth, I can see the flaws in the glass, those flares where the sun hits them. I can't see my own arms and legs or know if this is a trap or blessing, finding myself back here, where everything in this house has long been over, kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl, including my own body, including the body I had then, including the body I have now as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy, bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards (I can almost see) in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts and grubby yellow T-shirt holding my cindery, non-existent, radiant flesh. Incandescent.