Poem for February: February

Margaret Atwood

Go here* to read it. Then come back.

From the first line I loved this poem. As stated repeatedly, I’m not the biggest fan of winter and February happens to be my most hated month of the year. It is the shortest month in days, but in actual “time served” time it is seemingly 6-8 weeks worth of freezing cold weather, dark and drear, all packed into 28 “short” days. When I lived in Massachusetts it was even worse because the very long month of February was followed by March which was another seemingly 8-12 weeks of snow, ice, cold winds and no sign of spring all packed into 31 very long days. My mother used to call from relatively balmy Idaho and talk about the crocuses popping up and I would shrivel.

So comparably, February in Portland is lovely, but of course I have acclimated, so it seems still miserable. Will it ever stop raining? Can the sun come out maybe for more than 4 hours? For me, February is a very dark time, both in terms of daylight hours and internally. This poem captures my mental state perfectly, from the need to stay in bed longer to the incredible amount of fortitude it takes to get me through the day with any measure of cheer. And I know I’m not the only one. One of my workmates was having a miserable time at the same time I happened to be committing these lines to memory:

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.

I recited them to her dramatically one day before school started and we both laughed.

I also love how this poem mirrors the journey through February. In the beginning, the days are short and dark, the rains come heavily and we are all still paying off our Christmas bills. By the end, the days are longer, the spring flowers have popped up and there is hope that perhaps the easy living of the summer months is something that isn’t terribly far away. The poem moves through a black period that ends on a note of hope for spring. The month of February ends the same way. Unless, of course, you live in Massachusetts.


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