It is cold here in North Dakota (Quarterly) Land and it feels appropriate to share a wintery poem. Robert Fillman’s “Salting the Driveway (With Help)” is the kind of intergeneration meditation that breathes unexpected depth into an otherwise mundane activity. Poems like this (and this one in particular) prepare us to think about the tragic events taking place around the world today by reminding us that even the simplest daily tasks provide us with moments of reflection. Robert Fillman’s “Salting the Driveway (With Help)” appeared in NDQ 88.3/4 and is in his new collection, House Bird from Terrapin Press. You can read about that collection here.
As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. So even if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, If you can, consider buying a book from a small press, subscribing to a literary journal (like our UNP stablemate, Hotel Amerika), or otherwise supporting the arts.
Salting The Driveway (With Help)
Salting the driveway and suddenly
I’m wrestling with questions: will my wife
and kids get home safely from shopping?
Who’s watching me fling handfuls of salt
on the asphalt? Is this all there is?
I lift my head to the sky, see flakes
falling fast, nearly lose my balance
as the weight of it all covers me,
thinking this snow is no different
than the snow that fell years ago on
my grandfather, that he’s probably
seen every mistake I’ve made. He squats
beside me, points to a patch of black
ice I’ve missed, says the temperature
will dip over night, that the trees will
all be shackled with ice, just wait ’til
morning when the sun shines on them. He
scolds me for not stepping out sooner.
Then he sighs, tells me it’s okay, looks
like he wants to say more, but a wind
slips down my neck, an icy wetness
that makes me shiver almost as much
as the thought of him gone, which he is
once more, lost in the black air, so I
button up for warmth and listen for
my wife’s tires lisp over slush, knowing
I will sigh too when I finally
see her headlights pull into the drive,
help them out of the car, walk each one
by the hand up the steps and into
the house and then carefully follow
after, the grocery bags over-
spilling my arms. I imagine them
smiling at me as though I were that
same man they had left an hour before.
And how would they know any different?
Robert Fillman is the author of the chapbook November Weather Spell (Main Street Rag, 2019). His poems have appeared in The Hollins Critic, Salamander, Spoon River Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and others. His debut full-length collection, House Bird, will be published by Terrapin Books in 2022. He teaches at Kutztown University in eastern Pennsylvania.