02 February 2017

Poetry Thursday - February by Margaret Atwood

February 2012, Kew Gardens


Related Poem Content Details

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.

(via poetryfoundation.org, with thanks to Sally)

In eastern Canada, the winter winds blow cold from November to March, if not longer - and February is often called "suicide month". It's vacation time for people who can afford it, fleeing to the Caribbean for some much-needed warmth and sunshine, enough to last out the rest of the winter. 

The poem was published in 1995, but sex and territory, famine and pollution, are always with us.  Greedy whining, too.

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