Up before the sun –
eyes pop open thanks to internal alarm clock
and the fear that the garbage men dug them-
-selves out last night. Pull on yesterday's
dirty clothes and go about bundling my-
-self up against the December winter outside.
Walk out onto the enclosed porch; the cooler air
pulls me out of my stupor as I
pull on my snow boots and turn on
the outside light so I can see what I have
to look forward to. Don't look up
I tell myself til it's done.
Grab the shovel.
Get to work.
It's me, a cheap shovel,
and the memory of a warm bed
against freshly packed snow
and a thin layer of ice that crackles
when the shovel breaks the surface. Don't look up
I tell myself til it's done. Get to the end
of the walk, meet the pile of snow and ice and rock
left behind by the snow plow. They don't pile it
in front of my neighbors' houses this way.
Start from the top
and dig my way down
thinking about about my landlord's
lawn tractor plow attachment
and I wonder if he's awake yet. Don't look up
I tell myself. Not til it's done. Slice through the pile
and step out onto the cleared street.
Snow reaches my thighs and I
can only revel so long in my victory
before I glance left
at the driveway.
The snow plow
didn't disappoint. Dig my way down,
through compacted snow and ice and gravel
hoping the shovel doesn't break – until
there's a space big enough to push through
and attack the thinner layer of pristine snow and ice
leading to the garage door. It breaks easy and I
move in a rectangle pattern
because it makes me feel like
it's disappearing faster, so that I
can feel like I'm winning
in spite of the forecast I'm
pushing out of my mind that calls
for more snow the day after tomorrow.
Don't look up, I tell myself
til it's done.
One last giant pile
tall as my waist and that
only so she can get the car out
when she leaves for work
in a few hours. Think about
the spaghetti dinner she cooked last night,
how it was heavy and warm in my belly
even though my hands and feet were cold
in spite of the heat. Dig my way down and
make my way through. Check my work
and allow myself a futile sense
Perch the garbage
atop the pile of snow. I know
the garbage men will throw
the recycling bin in the middle of the yard
to make me trudge through the snow
to retrieve it. Try not to think about it,
I tell myself.
Go back inside.
My hands and feet are warm. Strip
off cold sweaty clothes like I learned
from T.J. down in New Orleans
who warned me that a damp t-shirt
would kill me whether I was sleeping
on a park bench or soft bed.
That's how the elements finally kill you,
he said. They wait until you get sloppy.