Reasons to Survive November
Yesterday Eleanor sent me a poem, which is a reason right there to make it through another miserable winter day. Moreover, she said it reminded her of me, and that delights me almost as much as it discomfits. This is the poem, by Tony Hoagland, from the volume What Narcissism Means to Me:
Reasons to Survive November
November like a train wreck—
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.
The sky is a thick, cold gauze—
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.
—Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.
I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself
with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.
But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,
and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over
and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.
It’s discomfiting to realize how far my 19-year-old daughter can see into the depths of my “donkey soul.”
Yes, there’s a pleasure in surviving the “train wreck” of winter. Yes, sometimes the only thing that gets me through the end of a long, miserable day of it is something like a “soup special at the Waffle House downtown.” I’m particularly fond of the healing properties of a bowl of queso dip and a drink at the brightly neon-signed Fiesta Margarita restaurant, run by a Mexican family here in this small Ohio town.
Yesterday I bought a case of wine at the Kroger, because February is coming and if a person buys it all at once, there’s a discount. I’ve done this…well, perhaps I don’t want to say how many times before. But a few. Anyway, yesterday I got the irritable check-out clerk–the one who makes me shuffle out my Kroger card in the middle of putting the heavy container of cat litter on the moving shelf going towards her because she likes to have it first, before she starts ringing up my groceries, even though all the other clerks now allow me to swipe it myself whenever I manage to get it out of the wallet. She made a big production out of how there was an item in front of the wine bottles and she would have to ring it as a separate order. Fine, I said. None of the other clerks ever do this, but if it would give Ms Irritable a charge, I was going to let her have that small victory. As I left the store with a cart piled high with $200 worth of groceries (we’re feeding a 16-year-old boy here) and the case of wine, I realized that Ms Irritable is probably a teetotaler and I was completely missing her criticism of my purchases. HaHA! “My survival is their failure”!
Just walking around campus sometimes feels like a defiant act. Just walking. Just seeing people, and letting myself be seen. Yep. Still standing. Still here. “I shove joy like a knife/into my own heart.”
Does it ever help you keep on going through adversity to hope that your bared-teeth grin—at least the semblance of happiness—will be annoying? Tell me I’m not alone!