Love is not a profession
genteel or otherwise

sex is not dentistry
the slick filling of aches and cavities

you are not my doctor
you are not my cure,

nobody has that
power, you are merely a fellow/traveler

Give up this medical concern,
buttoned, attentive,

permit yourself anger
and permit me mine

which needs neither
your approval nor your surprise

which does not need to be made legal
which is not against a disease

but against you,
which does not need to be understood

or washed or cauterized,
which needs instead

to be said and said.
Permit me the present tense.

– Margaret Atwood


What can I say about this pitch-perfect poem? The word play is clever without being off-putting. Professing love, love not being a profession, the construction of fellow/traveller, the juxtaposition of the clinical concern of medicine and the passionate anger of a relationship falling apart; and my favourite bit – ‘Permit me the present tense’, which can also be parsed as present, tense.
You can read about her here and here, and see her answers to the Proust Questionnaire here. You can read an interview with her in The Guardian here, and another in the Paris Review here.
We’ve run poems by Margaret Atwood on this site before; Siren Song, The Woman Who Could Not Live With Her Faulty Heart, and Variations On The Word Sleep.

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