The snow swirled and eddied on its own
picket line, slowed the factory in ways the strike
never could. My father worked the clock
like an aching knuckle, lunch pail as pillow, fitful
dreams for sheets. His mistress, a hot shower.
My brother and I hollowed out
the piles of snow, ate soup boiled on a camping stove,
pierced the darkness with a badgered light,
giggles tethered to wrinkle-skinned restlessness.
Our mother disowned us
when she slept, hard-boiled and deep,
steeping like tea, or dyed eggs in vinegar.
We howled with the wind and rattled
the basement's cinder block walls
Too much of anything will take on the itch
of wool. Another day and we'd have split
our skin, become some feral other.
Chinese torture of slow thaw, the tick tock
of a dripping gutter. I wolfed down whole sandwiches
of ice and air. My father fed
ore into the ovens, played nice
for the foreman, doubling
the blinds on the quarter hour
he came home rich with matchsticks but poorer for it:
They cut his shifts to rags like dirty shirts.
My brother and I took up our hammers
struck at the frozen floor of the flooded garage.
Our father parked the station wagon on the street,
came up silent with a snow shovel cradled in his busted hands.
He helped remove what we'd cracked and broken.
Mother floated behind the washed out curtains,
bright as a green spring leaf but less certain.