MORNING IN THE BURNED HOUSE
POEM BY POEM
The Poem: February
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.
Poet: 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.