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More poems by Galway KinnellGalway Kinnell | Print this page.Print | View and Write CommentsComments (1) | Books by Galway KinnellBooks by Galway Kinnell

Oatmeal

Galway Kinnell

I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
I eat it alone. 
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health 
        if somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have 
        breakfast with.
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary 
        companion. 
Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge, 
        as he called it with John Keats.
Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him: 
due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, 
        and unsual willingness to disintigrate, oatmeal should 
        not be eaten alone.
He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eat 
        it with an imaginary companion, and that he himself had 
        enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and John 
        Milton.
Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not as 
        wholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn something 
        from it.
Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the 
        "Ode to a Nightingale."
He had a heck of a time finishing it those were his words "Oi 'ad 
        a 'eck of a toime," he said, more or less, speaking through 
        his porridge.
He wrote it quickly, 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. 
An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacket 
        through a hole in his pocket.
He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas, 
        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, and then lay \ itself down slightly off the mark, 
        causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble.
He said someone told him that later 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.
I would not have known any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmeal 
        alone.
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 go thim 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 alone. 
I can see him drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmering 
        furrows, muttering.
Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion's tatters.
For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch.
I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneaously 
        gummy and crumbly, and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanagh 
        to join me.

Added: 2 Mar 2002 | Last Read: 22 Jul 2018 7:56 PM | Viewed: 14195 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/3103/ | Viewed on 22 July 2018.
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