My neighbors trudge out of their homes, like gnomes,
after a two-day storm so unnatural for the South, wearing worn
garments from deep in their closets—knit caps, scratchy
coats, and old ski gloves—surveying their roofs and pines
to determine the effects of a blizzard on their lives.
I can see their interactions, like crows, stirring up the street
as I stand with my bright red shovel, breathing in the crisp air.
No pleasantries with them for me. Soon I am scraping
the snow away from my back door, opening a sparkling trail
to our cars, digging them out before they become entombed
in a crust of ice. Under the day’s bright sun, our glistening world
will be as slick as a black mirror tonight. I start down my drive
to our smothered street, which won’t be plowed for days, but
I am itchy for this thing I do and this is the routine. The results
gleam from my blade in a continuous pile along side the drive.
Halfway to the street, I eyed my neighbor outside his house.
Like a cave dweller coming out of a tiny burrow behind a break
of wintery bushes and white-capped branches, he struggles
through the snow to meet me at my covered mailbox on my side
of the street. Reluctantly I step through my task and join him.
He asks, “Why work so hard, neighbor? Here in the South
the snow will melt away in days. Why bother when all of this,
on its own, will simply go away.” In his wintery jacket, black
socks for gloves, he sweeps out both of his arms and says,
“This snow doesn’t know it, but it’s a thing of the past.”
He smiles at me, adding, “Some people work to work, I guess,
When work is the last thing anyone needs.” To my surprise,
his dismissal of my idea to clean my drive from end-to-end,
side-to-side, with large piles of snow outlining my beautiful
aisle hits me like a thick snowball in the face of his laziness.
“Oh, no, I enjoy it.” (I long to continue what I gladly want done.)
“Besides, my friend,” I say to him, “the only time we talk
is to assess the impact of the weather and the differences between
our drives.” He laughs at that, adjusts his red ear muffs, and says,
“Catastrophic events, I guess, make for good neighbors.”