New Internationalist

Christmas Carols

Issue 420

by Margaret Atwood

Photo: Peter Arnold / Still Pictures
Photo: Peter Arnold / Still Pictures

Children do not always mean
hope. To some they mean despair.
This woman with her hair cut off
so she could not hang herself
threw herself from a rooftop, thirty
times raped & pregnant by the enemy
who did this to her. This one had her pelvis
broken by hammers so the child
could be extracted. Then she was thrown away,
useless, a ripped sack. This one
punctured herself with kitchen skewers
and bled to death on a greasy
oilcloth table, rather than bear
again and past the limit. There
is a limit, though who knows
when it may come? Nineteenth-century
ditches are littered with small wax corpses
dropped there in terror. A plane
swoops too low over the fox farm
and the mother eats her young. This too
is Nature. Think twice then
before you worship turned furrows, or pay
lip service to some full belly
or other, or single out one girl to play
the magic mother, in blue
& white, up on that pedestal,
perfect & intact, distinct
from those who aren’t. Which means
everyone else. It’s a matter
of food and available blood. If mother-
hood is sacred, put
your money where your mouth is. Only
then can you expect the coming
down to the wrecked & shimmering earth
of that miracle you sing
about, the day
when every child is a holy birth.

Margaret Atwood

‘Christmas Carols’, from her anthology Eating Fire (Virago 1997). Reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London, on behalf of Margaret Atwood. © Margaret Atwood 1997.

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