Poem: The City Planners by Margaret Atwood



The City Planners


Margaret Atwood



Cruising these residential Sunday

streets in dry August sunlight:

what offends us is

the sanities:

the houses in pedantic rows, the planted

sanitary trees, assert

levelness of surface like a rebuke

to the dent in our car door.

No shouting here, or

shatter of glass: nothing more abrupt

than the rational whine of a power mower

cutting a straight swath in the discouraged grass.


But though the driveways neatly

sidestep hysteria

by being even, the roofs all display

the same slant of avoidance to the hot sky,

certain things:

the smell of spilt oil a faint

sickness lingering in the garages,

a splash of paint on brick surprising as a bruise,

a plastic hose poised in a vicious

coil; even the too-fixed stare of the wide-windows


give momentary access to

the landscape behind or under

the future cracks in the plaster

when the houses, capsized, will slide

obliquely into the clay seas, gradual as glaciers

that right now nobody notices.


That is where the City Planners

with the insane faces of political conspirators

are scattered over unsurveyed

territories, concealed from each other,

each in his own private blizzard;


guessing directions, they sketch

transitory lines rigid as wooden borders

on a wall in the white vanishing air


tracing the panic of suburb

order in a bland madness of snows.

Sanities] sanity = the condition of mental health

Swath] track, row

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