Friday, March 12, 2010


In Vermont in the fifties, February was a mean month. Houses had acquired a permanent smell of snowsuits drying behind a kerosene heater in the 'warm room.' The snow in town was gray and the surface of it speckled like a pock-marked face. Small children looked into their mothers' eyes and saw reflected bck themselves upon a platter, their rosebud mouths plugged with withered macintosh from the barrel in the cellar. Linda Kenyon's mother was seen at the post office with one black eye, and her arm in a cast. It was still unremittingly cold.

In school the teacher read a sonnet:
"When Winter Comes, can Spring be far behind?"
We laugh, and she moved on to long division.

Each evening my grandmother sent me down to the root cellar to forage for vegetables. By late February there were only a few carrots, limp as drunken bridegrooms. She would serve them boiled with a little brown sugar and they would still taste bad.

Today, modified by modern conveniences, there is still a pall that hangs over February. Perhaps it is the anniversary depression therapists speak of. People are glad it is the shortest month of the year.

For me, this February lingered on into the first few days of March. I got up this morning and cruised on to Charles Bukowski's homepage. He showed me intimations of mortality in a barbecued potato chip. Then Rufus, Livingston and I walked down to the creek. I waited for them, mentally composing haiku about homelss men and dogs shitting in the park. On the way home, tattered, rain-sodden azaleas flirted with me, like ancient southern belles, and I realized, "February is over."

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