Death of a Young Son by Drowning

He, who navigated with success

the dangerous river of his own birth

once more set forth


on a voyage of discovery

into the land I floated on

but could not touch to claim.


His feet slid on the bank,

the currents took him;

he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water


and plunged into distant regions,

his head a bathysphere;

through his eyes’ thin glass bubbles


he looked out, reckless adventurer

on a landscape stranger than Uranus

we have all been to and some remember.


There was an accident; the air locked,

he was hung in the river like a heart.

They retrieved the swamped body,


cairn of my plans and future charts,

with poles and hooks

from among the nudging logs.


It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass

leapt to solidity;

my hands glistened with details.


After the long trip I was tired of waves.

My foot hit rock. The dreamed sails

collapsed, ragged.


                   I planted him in this country

                   like a flag.

Margaret Atwood, “Death of a Young Son by Drowning” from The Journals of Susanna Moodie (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 1969). Copyright © 1969 by Margaret Atwood. Reprinted by permission of O. W. Toad Ltd.

Source: The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (Oxford University Press, 1983).