After a Snowstorm

by Shai Afsai (March 2021)

Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

My friend,
who is getting his Creative Writing MFA
in New Hampshire,
texts me after a snowstorm:
"I wish I had more to shovel.
How often do we labor anymore?
It's good for the spirit."

What man in New England,
if he's a writer,
doesn't enjoy playing at being Thoreau
from time to time?
Still, I'm out in the Rhode Island wind
with a substandard shovel in my hand
and a driveway that's not even half cleared
when my friend's text arrives,
and his nonsense annoys me.

With cold fingers, I reply:
"Oh, the bullshit
that life makes us say!
You want to labor
for the good of your spirit?
Find some elderly people
or single mothers in your neighborhood
and shovel for them.
Or even just do your own
fall, spring, and summer yardwork,
instead of paying someone."

He doesn't respond to any of this
until the next day,
and it's clear I've hit a nerve.
But I've done enough labor in my life
to concur with the bible
that much of it's a curse for mankind.
Shoveling for hours
with a constantly runny nose
doesn't lead me to any different conclusions.

And who has patience for more malarkey,
especially during a pandemic
and after a snowstorm—
even from a friend?


Shai Afsai's articles, short stories, poems, book reviews, and photographs have been published in Anthropology Today, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Journal of the American Revolution, New English Review, The Providence Journal, Reading Religion, Review of Rabbinic Judaism, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, and Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review. See more here.
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28 Feb 2021
Send an emailHoward Nelson
So, you convicting your friend for lack of charity in forsaking his needy neighbor fulfills your need to bitch and moan displaying your self-righteous tone. And you, did you race to shovel a needful neighbor’s driveway or offer to do some essential shopping for a locked-down neighbor? Did you revel in your treasure of pleasure knowing your words had blamed and shamed your (former?) friend? And I? I’m as pure and thoughtful as can be, and modest to a fault but not every crass crevasse into which I fall and fail.

28 Feb 2021
Dennis R
Hey, Howard. Maybe the author didn't want to toot his own horn mentioning all the times he has done such a thing OR maybe he's older or disabled OR whatever. We don't know. But, maybe he's recognizing that the OPPORTUNITY to do what his friend lamented of NOT being able to do is still there. He REALLY wants to go out and shovel more snow? Opportunity abounds. Go shovel more snow, or my own snow. Maybe his friend is 300 pounds and the author knew that his friend was just virtue signaling but not going to get off his ass any more than necessary. That's what I'd bet.

1 Mar 2021
Send an emailHoward Nelson
Dennis R., your points are made well and certainly valid. I admit to being irked by the tone of the poet’s critique. It’s easier to be critical than correct. Thank you for correcting me.

15 Mar 2021
Send an emailCarl Nelson
Well, it's a good poem of a grouchy mood. More poetry needs to let its ass show sometimes.

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