Each snowflake, a white, lacy hole
in the air, a winter blossom falling
from a tree of sky, accumulates
on the driveway. I stare out
of the living room window
at weather turning landscape
into a bride’s gown.

Behind me, Aunt Liz drops into a sunken
recliner. Her body slackens to a slump,
mired in the quicksand of Alzheimer’s.
I sense her rodent eyes gazing at my back,
as if they were voodoo dolls stabbing me
with demands. I turn to see her
ninety-three year-old face smudged with
too much rouge, lipstick slightly above
her upper lip. She bends forward, squinting,
like a woman with hammer in hand, ready
to pound truth into my head, says, “No need
to shovel. It will melt.” I step to the window
again, see moon-colored boxwood bushes
in terraces below me. I almost topple
an antique lamp as I hurry for coat, gloves,
and cap from the hallway closet.

Escaped to the garage, I press a button,
and the garage door squeaks upward,
opening to a modicum of freedom.

When I step out, feet sink in a foot of vanilla
fluff. I thrust the shovel deep, lift it full
as possible, repeat this again and again,
as if it were a mantra that could change
everything in the house.

For the moment, snow has become a scattering
of flakes. I continue to pile shovelful after
shovelful, toward where sun should be.
Satisfied with my progress. I take a breather,
look down, spot a large rock at the side
of the driveway. I scoop up a handful of snow,
pack it around the rock, crook my arm, ready
to catapult the snowball through the front window
to shatter her disease and my pent-up emotions.
Instead, I drop the snowball, lock eyes with her
watching me, shackled by commitment
and the responsibility of winter.

Nik is the author of eleven books. His Cafes of Childhood was submitted for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. In 2020, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. More than two hundred of his poems have been published here and abroad.