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Oatmeal Analysis

Author: poem of Galway Kinnell Type: poem Views: 17

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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


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


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


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


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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