I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk in it.
I eat it alone.
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that it is better for your mental health
if somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary
Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal with
Keats said I was right to invite him: due to its glutinous
texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual
willingness to disintegrate, oatmeal must never be
He said it is perfectly OK, however, to eat it with an
and he himself had enjoyed memorable porridges with
Edmund Spenser and John Milton.
He also told me about writing the “Ode to a Nightingale.”
He wrote it quickly, he said, on scraps of paper, which he
then stuck in his pocket,
but when he got home he couldn’t figure out the order of the
stanzas, and he and a friend spread the papers on a table,
and they made some sense of them, but he isn’t sure to this
day if they got it right.
He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between
and the way here and there a line will go into the configuration
of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up and peer about,
then lay itself down slightly off the mark, causing the poem
to move forward with God’s reckless wobble.
He said someone told him that in life Wordsworth heard
about the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling
some stanzas of his own, but only made matters worse.
When breakfast was over, John recited “To Autumn.”
He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the
words lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.
He didn’t offer the story of writing “To Autumn,” I doubt if
there is much of one.
But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field got him
started on it and two of the lines, “For Summer has o’er-
brimmed their clammy cells” and “Thou watchest the last
oozings hours by hours,” came to him while eating oatmeal
I can see him---drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into
the glimmering furrows, muttering---and it occurs to me:
maybe there is no sublime, only the shining of the amnion’s
For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left
over from lunch.
I’m aware that a leftover baked potato can be damp, slippery,
and simultaneously gummy and crumbly,
and therefore I’m going to invite Patrick Kavanagh to join me.
-- Galway Kinnell
I haven't had oatmeal yet this morning, but now I'll be having it with Jill and Galway. Then more reckless wobble.
In bed this morning I started Bettina Aptheker's Intimate Politics, which I've had from the library for weeks, having come across it while googling a hunk of Adrienne's "Transcendental Etude" a fellow Adrienne lover had quoted. I know already I'm going to be recommending the book, so why wait. She's great with a sentence, is Bettina, while laying out some compelling memoir, with the bonus/hook for some/many of its glimpse into the radical history she was born into, but it's the radical honesty that is already knocking my socks off.
A long time ago a habit of radical honesty I began to practice practicing was no longer pretending to know the meanings of words I didn't know the meanings of, and in fact pointing out that I didn't know that word. Perhaps, if you've talked with me or (even more likely) corresponded or chatted by typing with me, you've noticed me reporting my heretofore ignorance of a word you've used. Maybe you've noticed me doing that more than once, maybe oddly much, maybe (thus) even as if compelled. And I've may've wondered whether you thought I think it's so interesting that it's the first time I've consciously gotten a new word, like geez I must think everything about what I know or don't know is so interesting. But the origin of the habit isn't in thinking my learning curve intrinsically so fascinating that it must be shared.
Though I guess I do sometimes, with some words, find it interesting that I've gone so long without picking up a certain one, particularly when it turns up again in the next few weeks, even more than once.
But I'm not surprised about "amnion," and I predict I won't be running into it all over the place this Spring.
One cool thing I picked up from Denise was her habit of going right to the dictionary, investigating right away and directly, by the book, a word she didn't know. Until then I would think something like "Huh, I don't know that word. Maybe I should try to remember it, to put it on a list later of words to look up at some point." Plus ever since I heard about "context clues" in, I dunno, some elementary school year, it seemed as if the real sharp folks learned most of their words that way. That's how we learned all the basics, after all. The dictionary didn't seem like the right tool.
Enough of this. To coffee, and oatmeal (and Jill and Galway and the last hour of Arwulf). But mental note: "Context Clues" is a title that could spawn a good poem. Or I think I have a poem in me for that title.