40 days into winter, a poem

When our friend John Scarlett, a blacksmith and poet who lives in Rossie, sent this poem to a few friends this morning, I immediately asked if I could share it with others. Perfect as we approach the halfway point of winter…but who’s counting?


Losing Count

by John Scarlett


Each night I wake up

two or three times

to use the toilet

and throw three or four chunks

of firewood into the boxstove,

making sure to pour

four or more quarts of water

into the big pot on top of the stove

before returning to bed

and before stopping to read

the indoor and outdoor temperatures

on the weather station

and counting the number of hours

since bedtime and until coffee.


Breakfast requires measuring

exactly several cups of oatmeal and water

and taking the correct number of pills

from all of the bottles,

precisely the same number

(what a coincidence)

as the twelve cleats around which

I loop the laces

of each calf high leather boot

before walking one hundred and fifty yards

to the barn to let out two oxen,

throw them one bale of hay,

and remove two wheelbarrow loads

of manure

and before returning to the house

to fill three bird feeders

and pull two hand-sled loads

of firewood to the backdoor

after having stopped to observe

a dozen or so

little brown rabbit pellets

scattered by the wind

across the fresh snow.


Back inside I sit next to the stove

to unhook in reverse order

the frozen laces of the same boots,

put on my two new slippers,

and with the second cup of coffee

gripped by five fingers

of my right hand

I may, if I remember to,

stand facing the wall calendar

with all its numbered boxes

to make sure I am not

somewhere other than where

someone is counting

on me to be.

As my frozen beard

drips into my cup

I notice that in two days

it will be January thirty-first,

the day on which you are supposed

to have used up no more than half

your winter’s supply

of hay and wood

and that in three or four weeks

it will be time to hang

several hundred buckets

on the maple trees,

about as many as the sheets of paper

piling up beside

Jack Nicholson’s typewriter

in The Shining.


John Scarlett

January 29, 2014

3 Comments on “40 days into winter, a poem”

  1. Jill Vaughan says:

    wonderful poem.

  2. Anita says:

    Thanks for posting this – thanks to John for sharing!

  3. Kent Gregson says:

    I’m inspired, I ripped off a popular Cajun tune for this.

    A Frozen Report

    Single digi high single digi low
    Maybe above maybe below
    Weather man says he don’t know
    But he says there’ll be more snow

    Single digi high single digi low
    Hope you don’t have someplace to go
    There’s a lot of ice and snow
    Single digi high single digi low

    Better drive slippery
    The roads are carefull
    Mention black ice
    You’ll get an earful
    Spin out of control if you’re not mindfull
    Single digi high single digi low


    It won’t put you in a trance
    You’ll jump up and down and dance
    And wish you wore long underpants
    Single digi high single digi low


    As you shiver in the cold
    And wonder what the day will hold
    Just remember you were told
    Single digi high single digi low

    (chorus) and out

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