They’ve been gone all winter
where alligators sit at the bottom
of swimming pools, backs notched
as bark, tails long and waiting.
Up north, it was a hard winter
full of husbands
and stamped out cigarettes,
driveways thin as wrists
narrowed by mounds of snow.
Winter, you are where imagination stops,
where airplanes fall from the sky
and even the cat, more ambivalent
now, contemplates hunger,
giving up sparrows.
It was hard on my parents too–
the thought of sand was sand enough.
Dad returns folded in acute angles
and Mom, the one who buried
my sister’s cat in the frozen ground,
depends on laundry, a clean pair
O God of dandelions
and birdsong, hear the stones
in my throat when I envision
the absence of Dad’s shoulders
rounded over the wheelbarrow,
how I’ll wish for these days–
birds at the feeder, the clang
of dishes in the sink.