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Sunny's bookshelf photo by Judy Solomon

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Morning in the Burned House

morning in the burned house


The Poem: February by Margaret Atwood

Winter and 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 of 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.


Margaret AtwoodPoet: Margaret Atwood (Canadian poet)
Book: morning in the burned house, new poems
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin 1995



I chose the poem February in the middle of December
because of the poem’s cat and the poem’s last words,
“Make it be spring.” The cat in my house is new to me,
and she is greedy and hissy. In cat years
she is 70 years old but I am her senior,
I am the alpha animal in my house. It is December.
I want this dreadful year to be over. I am greedy and whiny.
I want to “Get rid of death. Celebrate Increase. Make it be spring.”  – Sunny Solomon

Also available poetry by Margaret Atwood: Dearly; Selected Poems11965-1975; The Circle Game; Power Politics; The Door; Double Persephone; Bluebeard’s Egg; You Are Happy; The Animals in That Country; Selected Poems 1976-9186; Surfacing; Interlunar; Two-Headed Poems; Procedures for Underground; The Tent; Good Bones; Selected Poems 1966-1990; Eating Fire, Selected Poems; Second Words.

4 Responses

  1. The earth needs a rest too, after this last year, to gather strength for the year to come. Under the fallen leaves, it waits for rain, sends down roots. We need that too but it’s hard to come by. Hot tea and poetry, time outside on your deck when you can. Nothing to do about the cat though. A cat is a cat and hopefully has some entertainment value and permits the occasional stroke of the human hand. I love them, but they are what they are.

    1. Janet, thank you so much for your insightful comments. I heard Atwood read from her “Selected Poems” at a Cody’s event in Berkeley, early 1980. I’d never read her before, and happily, I have many of her poetry books now. I especially like her poems in “The Door,” a 2007 book. You are so right about cats. See you Monday evening for a first-ever Clayton Library Book Club Holiday Party!

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