Ive only started stabbing at the snow
That chokes my driveway when I hear the rumble
Of the pickup: it comes around the corner
From the hidden end of this dead-end street.
Its wub-wub-wub-wub seems a kind of mutter,
As if the truck is mulling over what risk
This road is paved with. Trying to ignore
The noise, I thrust at the frozen hide that crusts
My blacktop. No matter how hard I lunge,
This spademade for turning earth in summer
Bites only little moon-slices from the ice.
The truck rolls forward lazy as the flakes
Shivering down. BLAH DA-DA-DA! it bellows,
A wad of exhaust black as diesel hawked
At the cold, the notched edges of its tires
Blurring as they whine for grip. I hear the squeals
Of a boy, though the drivers alone in the cab.
When the truck zooms by, I see a kid on a sled
Tethered to the back bumper. His yells
Echo against my house as he just misses
My mailbox by maybe the length of a hand.
Snow sprays as his father spins the pickup
Into a cul-de-sac across from me,
The sled swinging like a pendulum.
I tell myself that I should do something:
Shout at the driver blinded by the blizzard
He swirls around himself; or call the cops.
The pickup slide-skids the arc of the circle,
The sled whipping across the buried borders
Of the neighbors lawns. The rear tires steam
As if melting. The driver blasts his air-horn,
And the wheels scream when he charges back
Toward the dead-end. The sled is empty now,
Flipping on its line. A different shriek
From the cul-de-sac makes me turn:
The thrown boy is standing washed in blood.
Holding my shovel like a spear, I plunge
Across the street, fighting to keep my balance.
Im nearly on top of the kid before I see
Its just a red snowsuit. He backs away,
Arms up to shield himself, and starts to bellow
For his father. Its okay, I tell him, but now hes crying,
And I hear the truck loom up behind, can feel
The hammering of the engine against my back.
Whats going on? the man demands, jumping
Out of the pickup which he leaves running:
It trembles like a beast. I thought he was hurt, I say,
Afraid to lower my shovel. But I do.
For a while, the snow flutters through the steam
Of our breathI watch the flakes melt on the windshield.
The man grunts; his shoulders unhunch. He shifts
His glare from me to the boy. Cmere!
Circling me, the kid stops short of his father.
He staggers a bit when the man throws an arm
Roughly around him. Cant stay on that sled,
His father grumbles, giving him a shake,
I aint takin you out no more. The boy
Jerks his head up: Daaad! he begs, the word
Stretched out to a three-note cry
That dips in the middle like a power line
Sagging with snow. The man points; the kid
Climbs awkwardly into the cab.
Shooting me a look, the driver gets in.
Im sure hell gun the engine, but he backs out
Slowly, angling the pickup as though he thinks
The road is ice over a deep channel.
The truck recedes, the snow sanding it
To gray translucence till it fades from view.
Unsteadily, I walk through the shimmer.
The moon-bites in my driveway are gone.
I grip the shovel as I hear the ticking of snow
Like thousands of tiny teeth biting back.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 1, on page 74
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