what my father would call this icy trek,
his daily discipline, an abiding brisk legacy.
The night snow has begun to melt, refreezing
on a gnarly pavement. Deer kick the crusted snow
like sand, belly up to the porch, recalling apples
from the summer roll-out. Walking sticks
invite some semblance of balance. My mother
bought a pair of grippers for my father’s boots.
He never wore them, never wore gloves
while gardening either. He liked the feel of hands
harvesting spuds or carrots, running the tiller, pouring
oyster shells for chickens, oats for horses, pruning
wily Gravensteins. Protection from the elements,
a complex matter. After three pokes in the eye
with a cherry twig, he donned sunglasses on the ladder.
I tuck my chin so the stiff breeze can’t nip my neck,
just cheeks, nose. Graceful limbs of Ponderosa,
white-shawled, nod encouragement. Wood smoke
flavors the air. A neighbor polishing his slick drive
redirects the snowblower’s spout at each turn,
crafting precision rows like a corn farmer in another
season. Doves and quail hide from the noisy rumble.
I admire their patience, adrift in this prairie of snow,
gravel, tundra, pyramid caps on fence posts,
juniper berries deep in pillowed furrows.
On return, my father would pour hot black tea.
I simply change to dry socks, old feet
thanking me like a dog curled up on the couch.
Carol Barrett coordinates the Creative Writing certificate program at Union Institute & University, and also teaches doctoral students at Saybrook University. She has published two volumes of poetry and one of nonfiction, Pansies, which was a finalist for the 2020 Oregon Book Awards. Barrett’s poems appear in JAMA, Poetry Northwest, Poetry International, The Women’s Review of Books, Christian Century, and many other magazines and anthologies.