Atonement Saoirse Ronan

One moment only and the waters quivered,

Aching with hunger,


Silk swathed translucent —

A vapour only stirring —

Draping bare her evanescent youth:

A naiad resurfaced, body a-blush.

In silent caress

His fingers lingered

Over the imprint of her shadow,

The woman of a moment past.

In thirst absconded.


Framed by a summer window,

In their lust, forgotten.

I crave to punish.


That letter. For his eyes only written.

So soon by her forgiven…

Grating spears of greensward

The feel of her dress,

Against the starkness of his thigh.

 In seeing I cannot unsee.

A child no more, and yet a woman neither

Their consummated love tastes of betrayal

And rage becomes my all.


He stands accused. Imprisoned.

In jealous fury I’ve undone their world.

A lifetime to atone

And for their doomed fates punish

Myself alone.


31 thoughts on “Atonement

    • Thank you, Judd. It is a strange way how our mind work. Today’s theme was invisibility or evanescence, and I remembered Bryony Tallis using that word in her play at the beginning of Atonement… one spark and I had to write this.

  1. Oh, yes. My God, the movie “Atonement” was gritty and beautiful and a long, drawn painful breath. This poem is beautiful and crushing.

    • Thank you so much. I share your feelings regarding Atonement. I went to the cinema to see it first and was on the brink of tears the moment I realised that he will die. In fact I was persuaded that he would and was able to hold back. Until the last scene. The narrative lulled me into a scene of security when I saw Robbie in London, and I was completely unprepared for the end. It took me a while to get out of the bathroom afterwards. Crushed indeed.

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  3. You write with such feeling and emotional force that I can only imagine how much is drawn from personal experience.

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  7. Well done Vicki. Not all monsters have green eyes and ugly faces, many come as pretty little liars cloned in innocent faces.
    Sadly we all have fallen in this mire at one point or the other, the difference always rests in between bravery or foolishness. Unfortunately most times foolishness reigns and then the need for atoning arises…often too late.
    You captured the true torment the heart goes through in the one, both for the victim and the one who needs to offload some guilt. BTW Vicki, my Nana used to say the only way to feel anything is feel it too much, any other way and one looses the message; so feeling too much is good all the way 🙂

    • Thank you, Dotta. After seeing the film I had to go and buy Ian McEwan’s novel because I wanted to get into the little girl’s head. I wanted to understand her motivation. This is what fiction can do so much better than other mediums: give us a window into the character’s minds and hearts.
      The story moved me. He built the narrative so well that, although I was angry with Bryony for what she had done, I also felt sorry for her.
      You are quite right, what she did was unforgivable, at least she never forgave herself, as Robbie asks her in her imagined scene at her sister’s flat: How old do you have to be to know right from wrong?
      And to have done this to her friend, someone who had always been there for her, someone she presumably loved… just dreadful.
      I saw the film several times and knowing how it would end made the viewing more difficult. I got emotional earlier and earlier with each one.
      When I started writing the poem I began with Robbie’s point of view. It was him observing Cecilia as she jumped into the fountain. Him resting his hand on the surface of the water after she left. Him writing the letter, and then finding that rather than be upset by it, Cecilia takes it as a declaration of love and returns his feelings. But then I remembered Bryony.
      Atonement was not Robbie and Cecilia’s story. It was Bryony’s – the pretty little liar who destroyed her friend’s and her sister’s opportunity to love and perhaps even live together into old age.
      So I decided to stay true to the original PoV and see it as she might have seen in, although writing it from Robbie’s point of view first, helped bring to the fore the passionate nature of the scenes she had witnessed and then used to accuse him. – Well. At least I hope so.
      I love your Nana’s insight. 🙂 Thank you. I will keep it in mind.

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