Digging Out (for Richard Kirkwood)


Split oak and hickory watch with stored disappointment

from under the pole barn’s rusted tin

as a year dawns too warm, uneventful.

A resurrected black and white cat

over an empty bowl shoots accusing eyes

after skipping me three nights. I atone

with milk and meat that he consumes

not with the ferocity my conscience demands,

but with dainty leisure and frequent licks

of those genteel paws I’ve seen him use

to snap the necks of doves.

Unforgiven, I watch him stroll toward the shedf

or a nap or for dessert, moving with casual indifference.

Patchy snow holds the slightest trace of his passing

destined for erasure by day’s brief sun

or for a new storm to fill.


Determined, I start in. I recall

as a boy that strain of muscle battling

sparkling snow so cold it squeaks under foot.

Years and miles of drifted white

distance me from that first ache.

But comforting heft of snow being moved

returns me to the white that is touching

white touching white down the hill

and around a curve in this new state

toward a road I cannot yet see.

Bend, slide, hoist, pivot,

sling the whiteness wherever—mantra

of flesh. Cold air brushes my face

as I muscle slowly forward composing

mental lists: Red wine, juice for Chance,

jugs of water, toilet paper and pasta

and beans, cracked corn for the squawking ducks

with pond ice slowly closing in, worry

over frayed wires in the well house,

electric heater running.

The cat reappears on the trail behind me.

A redbird on a bare limb watches both of us.

Bend, slide, hoist, pivot,

toss more snow, sink the blade again

into its heart, assess progress, feel warmth

on my back from slanting sun and cat’s eyes.

My eyes follow twin black lines from pole

to pole as they strain and disappear

around a last curve reaching for the road

one might almost believe lies waiting.

Jerry Krajnak

Jerry Krajnak is retired in the North Carolina mountains after fifty years of accumulating degrees and teaching English. At age 74, he is both tickled and honored to be seen as an “emerging” writer, a gleeful feeling akin to being asked to show his ID in the liquor store. During isolation, he has been writing new poems as well as editing older ones, some of them long caged in file folder and flash drive, thinking it is time to set a few free.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN