Back to Issue Two.

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. 

 

 

Jeffrey Alfier is a two-time Pushcart prize nominee whose poems have appeared recently in Connecticut River Review and South Poetry Magazine (UK), with work forthcoming in New York Quarterly. His latest chapbook is Before the Troubadour Exits (2011). His first full-length book of poems, The Wolf Yearling, will be published in 2012, by Pecan Grove Press. He serves as co-editor of San Pedro River Review