Pulling on my shoes
I feel the loneliness
Of the tongue and heel.
The leather wants to break down,
To lie in earth and return to the pasture.
The shoelaces want to loosen themselves
From the eyelets and return from nylon threads
To ancestral oil.

My father shoveled coal
Through basement windows
And drove the dump truck home
Late on winter nights.
Snow and coal dust
Melted from the cuffs of his pants
As he fell asleep at the table. Then he
Woke and speechless went into the dark
Room, shutting the door.
My mother mopped the puddles
And wrung the melting crystals into a pail,
Which she emptied into the drain.

This morning a winter ant
Crosses the kitchen floor.
I remember that it’s his day, too,
As I stare down at him
From my chair at the table.
He’s lucky. It’s January, but
He’s warm and his legs are strong —
He has his whole life
Before him, disappearing
Under the molding, through
The dark and into the wall.