At the Heart of the Cliché

January 12, 2018.

This morning I logged my exercise on the site, reading through the feed, commenting on other people’s workouts. One man wrote that he and his wife have started eating steel cuts oats for breakfast. He uploaded a photo of the oatmeal in the ceramic cooker.

Comfort Food.

I haven’t eaten oats for years, but I vividly remember a single morning – in a cold kitchen, wearing wool socks and stirring oatmeal with a wooden spoon. I remember looking out the window at the bright light reflecting from the ice on the clothesline in the garden. I remember the sound of the bird: a great tit, whose song is like rusty bed springs. 

When I think of this morning, it is never about eating the oatmeal. It’s about the sensual details of a single moment, of an average morning. The heat on my face, the light weight of the spoon pressing against the burping mass. It’s what oatmeal means to me. So, for a moment this morning in my quiet little library, it all came back to me: rusty bed springs, wool socks, and all.  The experience of comfort is reliant on the experience of discomfort. Wool socks provide comfort when pressed against a hard, cold floor. Birdsong is heightened when its squeaks and pauses sound contrast to the constant whoosh of the hair dryer minutes before, resonating against bathroom tiles.

Remembering all this, I think I shared this guy’s post-run oatmeal happiness this morning.

This afternoon I saw that a poet I admire posted a beautiful painting by Harry Clifford Pilsbury on Facebook. It’s captioned “Reading is

My cup of tea.

Harry Clifford Pilsbury (1870-1925)

This evening I sit with “my cup of tea”. It’s white tea with a bit of orange rind. And I finish reading the play Emilie: La Marquise Du Chätelet Defends her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson.

I haven’t decided if it is my cup of tea. I love the subject matter – the imaginative take on the story of a historical woman. But there are a lot of big words in here:

Emilie: There must be a trigger in women that sways us to forget the bruises of certain activities like childbirth, men, and other dangerous sports. It’s either madness, or martyrdom, … or hope.

Emilie’s former lover hears of her pregnancy by another man:

Voltaire: I’ve decided that I’m happy.

Emilie: Good to hear it.

Voltaire: For you.

Emilie: Oh. Thank you.

Voltaire: Do you love him?

Emilie: I do. V, he’s effortless. Passionate and gentle, and his poetry’s not bad at all, and he makes me want to… (she jumps in place…)

All clichés are rooted in a sensual truth, so there is a fine line when using them is simply indicating a truth, rather than conveying one. I guess that’s why I admire it all the more when writers dare to rub up so close against them-


-or get behind them as Katie Ford does with The Soul:

It disappeared.
It reappeared
as chimney smoke
that burnt through carcasses
of swallows stilled,
and that it portrayed no will
was why I followed that smoke
with this pair of eyes. (…)


Thursday evening I went to the theater. So I had to reschedule the poet bloggers revival tour for Saturday morning. I hope it’s cold outside. I don’t eat oatmeal these days, but I will make something to that will require using a wooden spoon. I will pull on a pair of wool socks, and take a cup of tea to the library to tune into all the singing out there.


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