By Linda Pastan b. 1932 Linda Pastan

"Yesterday the bird of night did sit,
Even at noon-day, upon the marketplace,
Hooting and shrieking."

—William Shakespeare


Imagine waking
to a scene of snow so new   
not even memories
of other snow
can mar its silken
surface. What other innocence   
is quite like this,
and who can blame me
for refusing
to violate such whiteness
with the booted cruelty
of tracks?


Though I cannot leave this house,   
I have memorized the view
from every window—
23 framed landscapes, containing   
each nuance of weather and light.   
And I know the measure
of every room, not as a prisoner   
pacing a cell
but as the embryo knows
the walls of the womb, free
to swim as its body tells it, to nudge   
the softly fleshed walls,
dreading only the moment
of contraction when it will be forced   
into the gaudy world.


Sometimes I travel as far
as the last stone
of the path, but
every step,
as in the children's story,
pricks that tender place
on the bottom of the foot,
and like an ebbing tide with all
the obsession of the moon behind it,   
I am dragged back.


I have noticed in windy fall
how leaves are torn from the trees,   
each leaf waving goodbye to the oak   
or the poplar that housed it;
how the moon, pinned
to the very center of the window,
is like a moth wanting only to break in.   
What I mean is this house
follows all the laws of lintel and ridgepole,   
obeys the commandments of broom   
and of needle, custom and grace.
It is not fear that holds me here but passion   
and the uncrossable moat of moonlight   
outside the bolted doors.

Linda Pastan, "Agoraphobia" from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.  Copyright © 1998 by Linda Pastan.  Reprinted with the permission of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.  

Source: Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1998)

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Poet Linda Pastan b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Home Life, Relationships

 Linda  Pastan


Poet Linda Pastan was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Pastan won the Mademoiselle poetry prize (Sylvia Plath was the runner-up). Immediately following graduation, however, she decided to give up writing poetry in order to concentrate on raising her family. After ten years at home, her husband urged her to return . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Home Life, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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