How did I get so dutiful? Was I always that way?
Going around as a child with a small broom and dustpan,
sweeping up dirt I didn't make,
or out into the yard with a stunted rake,
weeding the gardens of others
—the dirt blew back, the weeds flourished, despite my efforts—
and all the while with a frown of disapproval
for other people's fecklessness, and my own slavery.
I didn't perform these duties willingly.
I wanted to be on the river, or dancing,
but something had me by the back of the neck.
That's me too, years later, a purple-eyed wreck,
because whatever had to be finished wasn't, and I stayed late,
grumpy as a snake, on too much coffee,
and further on still, those groups composed of mutterings
and scoldings, and the set-piece exhortation:
Somebody ought to do something! That was my hand shooting up.
But I've resigned. I've ditched the grip of my echo.
I've decided to wear sunglasses, and a necklace
adorned with the gold word NO,
and eat flowers I didn't grow.
Still, why do I feel so responsible
for the wailing from shattered houses,
for birth defects and unjust wars,
and the soft, unbearable sadness
filtering down from distant starts?
- Margaret Atwood