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Misgivings

February 15, 2012

As a child, I memorized the book Chicken Soup With Rice, and the one for February has been going through my head: “In February it will be/ My snowman’s anniversary/ With cake for him and soup for me.” Cake and soup make February bearable. Last night we had Rotel dip and wine. That’s pretty good, too.

I get tired of everything this time of year. The absence of smells outside. The gray landscape. My winter clothes. The things I know how to cook. Fearing for my life every time I take a step in a snow-rutted parking lot, or when I drive down a little black (ice?) two-lane highway. That’s why, when I found this poem by William Matthews, I really loved the way it ended:

Misgivings

“Perhaps you’ll tire of me,” muses
my love, although she’s like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn’t tire of rain, I think,

but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can’t
control is what we could; those drab,
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may augur we’re on our owns

for good reasons. “Hi, honey,” chirps Dread
when I come through the door, “you’re home.”
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-

in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it’s far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let’s cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.

Ah, eating it all up and not sharing seems to me the very essence of comfort. Tonight some friends have offered to cook for us, so we will share. And if we’re lucky, we’ll get there and back again without–as another friend of mine always put it—ending up “in the ditch with the head off.”

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 10:51 am

    I glanced at the last line of this post, and, knowing it was about eating and loving, thought it referred to crawfish. It’s not just February – it’s Mardi Gras, and crawfish are coming in.! Perhaps you need to plan a trip to Baton Rouge, to soak up sun, have your eyes assaulted by the colors of azaleas and wisteria (and the camellias are still blooming), and eat some crawfish. Out of the ditch, and some people suck the heads after they pull them off.

    • February 15, 2012 8:00 pm

      Exactly what Mumsy just said. Oh azaleas.

    • February 16, 2012 7:18 am

      When my brother lived in Texas we got photos of February azaleas, and where I grew up in southern Missouri we could catch what we called “crawdads” in the creek near our house. You’re right, I need to plan a trip to Baton Rouge this time of year, some year when Walker is out of high school. I’ve never been there, you know, and always wanted to see “Walker Percy country”!

  2. February 15, 2012 9:16 pm

    Did you memorize it to the Carole King tune?

    I have noticed how the kids around town simply solve the problem by putting on their flounces of light and spring hoodies and shivering through whatever weather they get this time of year, as long as it isn’t actually raining.

    • February 16, 2012 7:15 am

      I did not memorize it to the Carole King tune, which, in fact, I’d never heard until this morning when I looked it up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syAtmgKqc9c If this is the one you mean, I do not like it. Ron asked what kind of tune I heard it to, and the best I can explain is that it’s like an old Steve Allen comedy routine where he reads the lyrics to a Beatles song “as if it’s poetry” and the lyrics he chooses are “You say goodbye. I say hello.” I think it’s funny to pause a little at the end rhymes.
      High school boys wear short-sleeved t-shirts and sometimes even shorts through the 30-degree weather. Many of them (sometimes including Walker) will not wear winter coats. I do start wearing lighter colors by March, but just as many layers because, as I believe I’ve mentioned, I hate and despise being cold.

  3. February 16, 2012 10:57 am

    Eating it all sounds goood right now. I’m also tired of this time of year. We did pretty well out of snow this year (although I know we always do well compared with the US) and had just the two days, which took about a week to clear. I love looking at snow, but hate going out in it, even in wellies.

    • February 16, 2012 2:31 pm

      I’ve gotten to like snow better since I moved to Ohio, but I still don’t like the little “one inch one day, one inch another day” kind of snow. I would either like to get a foot in one night so it’s emergency time or have spring now! I don’t know if you can get Rotel in the UK, but it’s just canned, chopped tomatoes with green chilis and some slightly hot peppers. We melt it with Velveeta cheese. There are people who put browned ground beef into the mixture, but I think that’s overkill. Once it’s melted, we scoop it out with tortilla chips and/or celery pieces.

  4. February 16, 2012 6:58 pm

    Well, I like this on, too, and I think it’s good advice. When have houseguests, as I believe I have mentioned, and when they are gone we will do this.

  5. February 16, 2012 7:00 pm

    Also, I really love all those little Maurice Sendak books, and the one about Pierre sparked my realization that sometimes books are actually about what they say they are not about. So, although in the end Pierre says he cares, and the moral seems to be that we should care, what the book is really about is the glorious part where he says he does not.

    • February 16, 2012 7:40 pm

      Yes. The eating in the poem is clearly a substitute for the kind of control we wish we could have. But good, anyway.

  6. February 19, 2012 2:48 pm

    My friend who used to say the “in the ditch with the head off” line says that it came from her grandmother who spoke a dialect of German no one else in the family was familiar with, which explains the oddity of the last four words.

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