shovelling out

Old years ago, the jaunty task
of cleaning out a driveway
after it had filled with snow
was frivolous stuff: a way
of showing off for girls
how easily he sectioned
out each cube of snow
and hurled the hefty chunks
like giant swaths of mountains
at furious start of planet earth.

Now hard-packed snow
the dreaded aniu
waited out the window:
a kilo cubic feet
packed hard
by last night’s winds;
arthritis stood like a wall
buttressed by heart arhythmia
and lassitude of the golden years
between him and
showing off for anyone.

He donned longjohns
and heavy socks and
pants and flannel shirt
and scarf and windbreaker
and jaunty toque
and heavy mitts
and winter boots
and went outside to face
a thousand cubic feet:
it might as well be
destiny he thought
for this old man
each time he had to go.
It was expected.
He expected such.

So slow so steadily
methodical like tamping
sweet tobacco in a pipe
in mid sentence to a child
or skinning rabbits
cleaning perch with grandchildren
upon the dock in draining sun
in sweetly drawing August.

He pictured steaming chocolate
in a mug inside the cosy kitchen
soothing the hard ache
that carved a hole inside his chest
an empty spot just right
to fill with rich warm chocolate.

The wind blew saltic chaff
in streams across the piles
of chunks of anui
that grew a field for forts
for kids to play in
carving cosy red-cheeked
drip-nose fun for days.

Hard breath hissed out
like steam from some old
engine on a track
hauling freight for the
thousandth time up
hard-earned mountain passes
in the fabled west.

When he had to lean upon
the shovel and catch up his breath,
this was an unaccustomed place
to wait until the pain drained out:
but body’s limits impose such toll
on such as this old tilter of windmills
who would remember viscerally
in joint and lungs and back
and arms and every cran and place
that tortured flesh can find to list:
a handful of days, a week,
regretting the future
until finally the driveway cleared
the walkway, steps passable again
he dragged his sorry ass inside
to face the soft ministrations
of tender loving hands
and warm chocolate.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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2 Responses to shovelling out

  1. drew says:

    amazing. I played out that first stanza a few mornings ago, lol, so it was fun to read and see my thoughts spread out like that. Rest of the poem,.. the flow and voice is the best i think i’ve read from you, with such awesome use of linebreaks to control the pace. liked the last four lines a lot too.. and the sweet tabacco part, and the hole filled with chocolate. mesmerizing

  2. riverwriter says:

    Thank you, Drew. I don’t know whether you saw the backgrounder with photos that I posted on Platinum River. I have to start putting up links to P-R when I background a piece there. I guess the “trueness” of the piece is traceable to my long history of snow shoveling: when you write about something you know right down in your bones, it comes out true. About the rhythm/line-breaks: it’s one of those free verse things that develops once you establish the rules and get going; it just happens. That’s one of the rewards of writing free verse.

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