Turn you over, there’s the place
for the address. Wish you were
here. Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on
& on, a hollow cave
in the head, filling and pounding, a kicked ear.
These final lines from “Postcards” display many of the themes and techniques that characterize Atwood’s poetry. First, she writes of turning “you” over, willfully confusing the postcard with its intended recipient. The holiday-postcard sentiment “Wish you were / here” is broken into two lines, emphasizing the hollowness and emptiness of this manufactured sentiment. The metaphor that begins the final sentence of this quotation—“Love comes / in waves like the ocean”—illustrates Atwood’s tendency to conflate external and internal landscapes. In this case, the ocean is interesting only insofar as it can convey the speaker’s sense of isolation and her disappointment in love’s illusions. In the final image, Atwood links earlier topics with this ocean metaphor. Love is not simply a delusion like the postcard—it is painful and punitive. The last words of the poem, “a kicked ear,” internally rhyme with the false sentiment expressed earlier (“wish you were / here”), and they also echo the poem’s earlier description of the tortured prisoners.