An affair with Raymond Chandler, what a joy! Not because of the mangled bodies and the marinated cops and hints of eccentric sex, but because of his interest in furniture. He knew that furniture could breathe, could feel, not as we do but in a way more muffled, like the word upholstery, with its overtones of mustiness and dust, its bouquet of sunlight on aging cloth or of scuffed leather on the backs and seats of sleazy office chairs. I think of his sofas, stuffed to roundness, satin-covered, pale blue like the eyes of his cold blond unbodied murderous women, beating very slowly, like the hearts of hibernating crocodiles; of his chaises lounges, with their malicious pillows. He knew about front lawns too, and greenhouses, and the interiors of cars.
This is how our love affair would go. We would meet at a hotel, or a motel, whether expensive or cheap it wouldn’t matter. We would enter the room, lock the door, and begin to explore the furniture, fingering the curtains, running our hands along the spurious gilt frames of the pictures, over the real marble or the chipped enamel of the luxurious or tacky washroom sink, inhaling the odor of the carpets, old cigarette smoke and spilled gin and fast meaningless sex or else the rich abstract scent of the oval transparent soaps imported from England, it wouldn’t matter to us; what would matter would be our response to the furniture, and the furniture’s response to us. Only after we had sniffed, fingered, rubbed, rolled on, and absorbed the furniture of the room would we fall into each others’ arms, and onto the bed (king-size? peach-colored? creaky? narrow? four-postered? pioneer-quilted? lime-green-chenille-covered?), ready at last to do the same things to each other.
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author, poet, critic, essayist, feminist and social campaigner. In addition to being a renowned poet, she is among the most-honored authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award seven times, winning twice. (Annotated biography of Margaret Atwood courtesy of Wikipedia.org.)
Editor’s Note: I was slow in coming to love prose poetry. I did not quite understand it as a literary animal, the lines between prose poetry and flash fiction blurred, and I often found its lack of line breaks and chunky prose format difficult to get through. However, over time I have come to see prose poetry as a beautiful art form, unique and worth celebrating in its own right. I found this particular piece in Great American Prose Poems (Scribner Poetry, 2003), which is an excellent book to peruse if you are curious about, or unfamiliar with, prose poetry.
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