Hunkering Down

The last half of Margaret Atwood: Selected Poems II focuses a lot on snakes, not a favorite of mine, and old age, a subject I’m more familiar with, but not much fonder of. There are titles like “Aging Female Poet Sits on the Balcony,” “Aging Female Poet Reads Little Magazines,” and “Aging Female Poet on Laundry Day.” While these poems aren’t without their insights into life, they’re not particularly the kind of insights that engage this Aging Male Blogger.

However, I can certainly identify with the attitude expressed in:


I used to have tricks, dodges, a whole sackful.
I could outfox anyone,
double back, cover my tracks,
walk backwards, the works.
I left it somewhere, that knack
of running, that good luck.

Now I have only
one trick left: head down, spikes out,
brain tucked in.
I can roll up:
thistle as animal, a flower of quills,
that’s about it.

I lie in the grass and watch the sunlight pleating
the skin on the backs of my hands
as if I were a toad, squashed and drying.

I don’t even wade through spring water
to cover my scent.
I can’t be bothered.

I squat and stink, thinking:
peace and quiet are worth something.
Here I am, dogs,
nose me over,
go away sneezing, snouts full of barbs
hooking their way to your brain.
Now you’ve got some
of my pain. Much good may it do you.

In the old days, says two or three months ago, I could dodge with the best of them. Now with my back out of whack, I wouldn’t dare dodge unless my life depended on it. Way back in the old days, I could verbally parry with anyone I ever met. Sarcasm was my weapon of choice that I honed ever since I discovered that you lost even when you won a fist fight.

Lately, though, I have less desire to fight back. I merely want to lower my head and duck and cover, letting the storms of controversy pass over. No Burningbird, be I.

I just wish I had the porcupine’s quills to protect myself. I just want to squat here thinking, trying to find a little peace and quiet. I’m afraid that the readers who come by to visit lately may, like the dog, feel like they come away in pain, like a hound with a snout full of barbs.

Yesterday one of my ex-teacher friends sent me a short, succinct summary of the effect my blog had on her: “After months I read your blog … that was what was depressing … or maybe I should say … it was the way the world is.”

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