Digging Out of Winter
BY JEFFREY ALFIER
Outside the bedroom window of the house
he and my mother have shared since ’68,
my father watches the post-Christmas
blizzard build in the wind’s high octaves.
Gathered in the kitchen and dressed for cold,
we see a cardinal in lucid scarlet, unable
to reach table scraps and seed from a bird
feeder canted in drifts by gale-force winds.
What is it about shoveling snow that makes us
feel obsolete as threshers and draymen. It falls
until the sky hungers itself pale, just a weak light
from the sun to distend our shadows eastward.
We joke that our coat of arms must be shovels
crossed over coal bins, even as resurgent wind
stacks drifts in parapets to say we’re forever
late to the race, even before the icy game begins.
By nightfall, we’re sore as Cain tilling his stones.
Thirty years his junior, and I still quit earlier
than dad, my feet translating to my legs
the never-dead language of numbness.
Leaning against the garage, he reads portents
in wind that turns his breath to smoke. He waits
for me to warm in the house, then return.
He’ll linger patiently. Like bread on snow.