Friday, February 3, 2012

Poetry Friday: Atwood, Cats, Dogs, Primroses and Optimism

This poem says just about everything I felt when my husband announced, the other day, "Hey - it's February!" Well, maybe there's a little more Cat to it than would be my way - I prefer Dog. And I might not go for the part about the testicles. Or the part about eating our young. Come to think of it, this poem is a little scary. Atwood is nothing if not fierce and direct. But I'm all for those last couple of lines. One other quick thing: Primroses are showing up outside all the markets. Hooray!!


Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,   
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries   
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am   
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,   
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,   
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,   
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here   
should snip a few testicles. If we wise   
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,   
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over   
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing   
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits   
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries   
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Quick note for those of you who follow The Drift Record - I am part of another blog that's just started up (it's called Books Around the Table - check it out here) with Julie Paschkis, Laura Kvasnosky and Margaret Chodos-Irvine, all members of my kids book critique group (and all illustrators as well as writers - time for me to go to art school!)  We'll be posting thoughts about writing and illustrating, about critiquing, about kids books in general. Laura, Margaret and Julie P. have all contributed their first posts, and mine will be going up next Friday. Hope you will join us for conversation around the table.
Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Karissa Knox Sorrell at The Iris Chronicles. Head over there to see what other people have posted.


  1. I think the poem reflects that love-most stuff of February so very well, if a bit starkly, but isn't it rather true that "famine crouches in the bedsheets" and February is that month of wishing to get out of winter? Mostly, I am here in the middle of a blizzard & took this poem very to my heart.

  2. This must be the week for cat poems! Thanks for sharing this odd little poem!

  3. Atwood IS a little scary, but I join her in wishing for spring for you up there in the frozen north! (Or just move to the tropics, like me...)

  4. Thank you for sharing Margaret Atwood - I loved her poetry before I loved her novels. And yes, she strikes right there in the center of one's universe - and strikes deep she does.

  5. "February, month of despair,
    with a skewered heart in the centre.
    I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries "

    Okay, now that it has been a "skewered heart in the centre" of the month, Valentine's Day will never be the same!!

    Bring on the Spring! (Wait...we haven't really had winter yet in Ohio...temps have been in the 40s and 50s recently...)