I waited three days to call and thank you.
When I finally did
(and I’m sorry I waited so long, it wasn’t kind to make you wait)
I said, trying at least be honest if I couldn’t be kind,
that I didn’t know whether to say thanks or ask for a new front tire instead,
at least if you were going to spend such unasked-for money on such a present.
But then– then you said, and this slayed me like so much you say
does when you say things these days,
you always wanted snowshoes, or something to that effect.
You mentioned my having wanted to go with you past winters,
how we hadn’t gone all that often despite those expressions,
and so– now you’d gotten them for me.
I couldn’t stay on the phone that much longer,
and not just because I hadn’t bought you anything for Christmas this year,
having decided that I really needed to work on starting to make the effort,
try at least to get over the fact that the person I love–
loved– participles counted and uncountable still– couldn’t
try back about some things,
for all the reasons we’ve both retread enough times that the tracks we have made are so muddy that they are unfathomable,
even by the best native guide.
I’d been talking to you as I stared at that week’s purchase of flowers,
(pink tulips, blush pale) the ones I buy for myself,
to be kept in the Waterford (of course Waterford) vase
Dad bought for me come birthday-time
when he saw I had this habit I didn’t explain.
For your weekly floral infusion, he said when I opened the box.
Your you always wanted snowshoes reminded me of the discussion
we had once or twice about flowers and the buying thereof.
I had seen those snowshoes, you see, while dropping paperwork off,
and as I told your quiet, kind voice on the phone,
I couldn’t tell who they were for,
among all the various new things you’d acquired.
I didn’t want to look all that closely,
not in a place that isn’t home anymore
(we’d never bought that much furniture together, living among hand-me downs, and that’s settling, not settling down,
something perhaps I should have been louder about)
but it still smells like you
and so it makes me cry the minute I walk in the door.
(I hate that I don’t need to sleep with earplugs to ward off your snores.)
Well, you know me, I always think too much about things,
and given the choice between confrontation and cutting a limb off,
well. I’ve already ripped out my heart.
I therefore decided they weren’t for me,
and that you were going to explore
those different paths I never wanted to take when we did hike together,
preferring not so much the wide, easy paths
as the ones with views of clouds and sun
(though often, those things run together).
Though I know I can sound pessimistic on a day-to-day basis,
I want to believe that the sky’s the limit.
Perhaps I should have shared that worldview with you before it was so late,
since clearly you drew a different meaning from the one I intended
(and not just when we were out on a hike).
A few weeks later, after the snowshoe sighting,
while buying myself a replacement snow shovel,
I saw a pair (not nearly so nice as the ones you bought me) on sale at the Job Lot. I almost bought them, but by then my tire’d gone flat.
Snowshoes for blazing fresh trails take far second place
to simply getting to work.
It hasn’t snowed yet this year, and I’ve only half-unwrapped the box.
With no snow on the ground, I’ve no use for them yet.
(I’m also afraid of all their potential, what it means to use them alone.)
I wonder all sorts of things about the meaning of snowshoes,
and I’m afraid to ask them–
not after asking you so many questions,
not after pressing both of us so very much (too much, I’m afraid.)
I don’t know any more what my answers might be, regardless.
(I shouldn’t even presume you have questions.
I don’t know where this path ends and I am afraid to blaze it.
There still might be dead ends. I don’t have a map.)
But if you were to say–
ask, for example–
I have gone and bought my own snowshoes,
would you like to just go for a walk?
(If and when it finally snows….)
That– that’s a question whose answer I know, whose answer is yes.
I could even make cocoa, with cinnamon and salt in the way that you like
(though I’m still not a cocoa person myself, I’m happy to make it for you).
The Job Lot had a nice thermos on sale, I could get two and make tea for myself.
We don’t have to drink the same thing to still enjoy a nice walk.
And if the thermos isn’t there when I go back,
I could try someplace else.
Then again, I always did think too much about the meaning of things.
The noise of snowshoes in use is perhaps my best caution.
Shush, shush, shush…
(Too late now, in any event.)