national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014

Winter Poem

J. Phillip Reed  • 
University of Miami

Think of worst.

Think of worry & woolen washer cycles.

Think, well, why won’t this cigarette

smoke any damn faster? In winter,

the wretched knocking of incisors

when pea coat, gloves & scarf fail,

when fashion finally meets utility

but the wind has more wile & longer sleeves

to hide it in, when the only excellent idea

is to go inside & fuck. Winter

is a suicide note wrapped in baptismal white,

a white girl wrapped in suicide black—

Baptize me, baby, cause it’s cold out. Side with me, baby.

Something I just need creeps around the evergreens

each December. It hides between the omitted

& third buttons of flannel shirts,

in cleavage I can only appreciate

because (as a gay) there

is a place I simply refuse to go—

unless winter

means “drink gin until warm & fuzzy”

& “think straight when you can’t walk it.”

 

You, yes, you, how can you

love winter? Love leather, love boots,

love the shiny knees leather boots reach up to,

love the crescent shape your eyes caress,

your hands glove deeply. Love

The connotation of alabaster skirts around

black pine—something to trudge through

drifts & slush for. The love of winter,

I’m convinced, was brought home by a newlywed

whose hand was full of her husband

by the fireplace. The hand that hardest clenched

the hearthrug became the dwelling place

of a diamond so passive-aggressive

it could only be the wonder of winter:

I love you harder than a cabin floor.

What place is there for lovers where

winter is the only promise?

Saxon men were not lovers.

They could melt the panic off their women’s breasts.

They fell hard on the eyes like sleet

& would whistle in the unsuspecting sky

between raised thighs like an arrow.

Of sex—musky, animalistic, ritual—

they were master wielders, bearded

like the capital G in Godless.

 

Winter, finally,

is the season of desertion. Think

color; think in terms of what void

this pie filling fills. Think of dessert

& what’s left over. Think felt up

& what’s left to get under; think

of what’s left of you when he leaves.

Ain’t no sunshine, just more naked

trees & smoke rising. Witness

the decline in creation, but thank heaven

for snow in pollen’s absence

& snow for warning girls in cabins:

I don’t even put my gin on ice.