Poetry Sunday: February by Margaret Atwood

Winter is winding down where I live, but it seems to be readying one last blast for us. We are expecting some quite cold temperatures this week as February ends.

Margaret Atwood understands February:

   February, month of despair, 
   with a skewered heart in the centre.

And she understands cats and life:

    It’s all about sex and territory, 
   which are what will finish us off 
   in the long run.

Here is Atwood's take on February.

February

by Margaret Atwood

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.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. I do not think that I have read Atwood’s verse before.

    Here in New York the winter has been so mild that it really does not feel like February. I am hoping that we do not get a late winter surprise.

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    Replies
    1. Our winter has been mild with intermittent cold spells. It looks like we'll have another of those later this week.

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  2. Margaret Atwood at her best, I would say. A fine Canadian, and an avid birder - what more is there?

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    Replies
    1. The best of both worlds and not a bad writer, too!

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  3. Is that new Atwood poetry or long ago? I like it. I'm trying to enjoy winter here in the mountains this week. But in the city sometimes it can be a month of despair. I like cats too.

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    Replies
    1. The poem is from the mid-90s. I don't know if she has written any poetry recently. Cats are the "life principle, more or less," in my life, too. How nice to know that I share something with Atwood!

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  4. I was just thinking the other day I should read some of her poetry. I have read almost everything else she has written.

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    Replies
    1. It's not what she's known for, of course, but like all of her writing, it is quite insightful.

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  5. My first Atwood poem. I hope it isn't the last. I am fearing a March surprise. We've had them before, sometimes two feet worth. We are below normal in snowfall, and nature has a way of evening things out.

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    Replies
    1. These last few weeks of winter do often bring surprises, don't they? And usually not happy ones.

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  6. She depicted February right to its chilly bones. :-) I like it!

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