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Oatmeal

Written by: Galway Kinnell | Biography
 | Quotes (1) |
 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.



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