This is the Winter Poem and its words are the sound of a fork clattering to a dining room
The wood is dark.
The fork lies there on its back as if that is where it has always been. What it has always
done in the cold light. On the dark floor.
And then Pierce Brosnan walks into the dining room, picks it up and hands it to you.
Your face is all like: you were not aware that Pierce Brosnan was going to be in the
He walks on and out of the room without a word.
Things are quiet now in the Winter Poem.
I say, “Hmm,” and you wait a few moments. I can see you contemplating whether or not
to pretend not to have heard me say “Hmm,” and so I say, “Hmmm,” a little louder. You
“Well, it’s just that… ,” I say and you say, “It’s just that what?” and I say, “It’s just that
Pierce Brosnan isn’t in a lot of poems these days and so you’d think he might say, I don’t
know, ‘thanks’ or something.” I dab a napkin at the corner of my mouth where I suspect
there may be some gravy that you’re not telling me about.
“But he couldn’t be bothered,” I say. I wave a hand, meant to dismiss the matter, but it
also may look like the end of a magic trick.
You sit there like a fork in the middle of a dining room floor, unmoved, unable for a
moment to make a noise.
“Well, it’s just the Winter Poem,” you say.
“What do you mean ‘just’ the Winter Poem?” I say.
And you say, “It’s not that big a deal.”
Outside, dark, bare branches reach like ancient fingers to an all–white sky.
“How is it that the Winter Poem isn’t that big of a deal?” I ask and you say,
“Everything’s dead in the Winter Poem or evocative of death,” and I say, “Well, but I
think it’s pretty goddamn nice of me to put Pierce Brosnan in the middle of the goddamn
Winter Poem, evocative of death as It is,” and you say, “But he…” and I say, “Would it
kill him to say thanks or even do a little gun thing with his hand or something?”
Outside, a wind from someplace ancient, from between, perhaps, the branches of an
evergreen so old and distant that it saw the very first fire made by human hands, blows
against the window, and I don’t know if you concede the point about how it wouldn’t kill
Pierce Brosnan to say something or not, but nonetheless, we stop talking and the Winter
In the Winter Poem, the branches are bare. They strain to fill a landscape filled with
nothing. A landscape that cannot be filled. The farmhouses off in the distance of the
Winter Poem, across the wheat-stalk- stubbled fields, look like the dry husks. Like lives
left behind and dinner tables set for meals that never came. And oh, guess who’s walking
back through the Winter Poem? Munching on a fucking roast beef sandwich he evidently
felt it was cool to just take from the kitchen because make yourself at fucking home in
the Winter Poem, Pierce Brosnan.
But don’t worry: he must have lots of other things to do because he doesn’t have time to
say as much as “Hi,” or “I hope it’s okay; I kind of made myself a sandwich.” Lots of
other things to do, which evidently includes going over to the couch, sitting down, and
munching away at the roast beef sandwich with a dumb, entitled look on his enormous
“Make yourself at home in the Winter Poem, Pierce,” I say and he just chews. “I mean,
outside the world is dormant and silent like a great animal burrowed deep in a nest of dirt
and roots kept warm by a secret fire down a thousand feet deep and so the fuck are you, I
guess, so enjoy your fucking sandwich.”
I look at you. You just make bug eyes like there isn’t anything you could possibly do to
help the situation. Not one thing. I fold my napkin crisply, precisely like a deep bite of
cold wind angled along your scarf-bared neck and place it back on the table.
“You have a little horseradish on that?” I ask him. “The last of the horseradish? I mean, I
heard you being pretty thorough with the knife clattering around the inside of what had to
be an entirely empty horseradish jar—so yeah, of course it’s the last of the horseradish.”
He’s still chewing, the sandwich a thick ball of meat now in his stubbled cheek, but all
that’s okay, because he’s gracing the Winter Poem with—I’ll alert the poetry police—a
nod. Wouldn’t want Pierce Brosnan to trouble himself with words I can put in the Winter
“Yeah? Is that a yes? All the horseradish is gone because you needed it all for your free
sandwich?” I ask and he just continues nodding at the same speed.
“It’s okay. We can get more horseradish. You probably don’t even need it to finish the
Winter Poem,” you say.
Which is great because suddenly everybody is a fucking authority on what the Winter
“No, yeah, you’re right,” I say, pushing my chair back from the table, scraping its legs
against the dark wood, like eyes shadowed by the first harsh bruise of snowy night. “The
last thing the Winter Poem needs is some horseradish because it already has so many
other fucking things.”
I gesture over to Pierce Brosnan who—I guess I can have a heart attack and die happy
now because he’s giving me a thumb’s up to put in the Winter Poem.
Hey, guess what, Winter Poem? Thumb’s up from dumb, fucking Pierce Brosnan.
I turn back to you in time to catch a little smile on your face, which is a thing the Winter
Poem definitely does not need.
“You’re right,” I say, getting up. “The Winter Poem doesn’t need any goddamn
horseradish, but you know who does? Me.”
You nod like you kind of expected me to say that and I hear a little sigh from the couch
where Pierce is still giving his mouth a pretty serious workout with all the free sandwich
I walk over to the coat rack and grab my coat.
“Where are you going?” you ask.
“Oh, where am I going? Suddenly everyone, in addition to being authorities on all the
things the Winter Poem does and does not need, wants to become an authority on where
Pierce Brosnan snorts. The Winter Poem should, I guess, feel lucky.
“Out,” I say, zipping up my coat for emphasis. “For some goddamn horseradish.”
I pause there, waiting for either of you to say anything, but you’ve both been pretty good
about not lifting a finger to help out with the Winter Poem, so…
I walk outside and shut the door behind me. Tiny, persistent fingers of cold wriggle their
way against me—into me—and the street in front of the house huddles its shoulders
against the streetlamps, whose light bears no consequence against the deepening night,
whisked away by a wind that feels like a constant, inexorable breathing out.
Maybe Pierce Brosnan should come out and eat a fucking sandwich at it. Or sit on its
fucking couch and just—what—sit there and think about how handsome he is?
But no, that’d be too much work, I guess, for the Winter Poem.