Who Still Wears Six-Buckle Overshoes?

Blog, my blog, could easily be a name to drop, slipped casually into conversations with my friends. I will try not mention it too often to my friends. I don’t want to be the way I was when first learning to play tunes on my harmonica. Give me the slightest encouragement, and In a flash, my harp would be out of my pocket, ready to play requests!

Even so, it’s a great happiness, this thought of having actual readers online: like a pleasant and courteous greeting. One of my early poems, “Chinook,” describes the January thaw in just that way. Depending on where you live, you may or may not have experienced the January thaw. This year in Nebraska, December was so mild that winter seemed scarcely to have arrived in time for Christmas. Perhaps we will not even notice the January thaw when it takes place. But if you have known frigid temperatures followed by a sudden—and temporary—reprieve, it arrived as a gift, did it not? A kiss on the cheek?

Here is the poem, which I wrote for my father, a farmer.


This morning I left the house prepared
for subzero temperatures, having allowed
time enough to scrape the ice from the
windshield as on a succession of mornings—
only now I realize this has been done
unbeknownst to me, sometime in the night.
Feeling foolish and happy, I stand beside my car,
saying to nobody, “What we have here is the
January thaw. ” I remember my father in his
six-buckle overshoes up to the fifth buckle
in melting snow knee-deep to me explaining,
it is a warm wind with the name Chinook
coming down off the slopes of the Rockies
that brings us the January thaw. It lasts only
a day or two, a small reprieve—like
a pleasant and courteous greeting
when we had expected a rebuff,
or a moment even in the midst of grieving
when something makes us smile.
So mild is the touch of the northwesterly breeze
on my face in the dawn this far from the springtime
of childhood, that I think on my way to work,
grace could have another name—Chinook.

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