Sestina: Advent

Palms pressed to glass, the boy leans into the cold windowas he listens for the diesel rumble to near, waits to see the grey hulk of his father’s truck. I think Papa’s here, he says at the sound of any passing engine, still eager after a week of seeing only school buses, a garbage truck. Ground into the door, his nose flattens. Breath fogs glass, veils the early light.

The garden brown since the first of November, tomato leaves brittle, light: a small jungle of fallen trellis and knee-high grass outside my window. Rotting peppers and one rabbit-gnawed squash will return to the ground that we did not prepare for winter planting. Sometimes it’s the wait for spring that wears us down—these short days seem to stand still like a boy searching at the back door for his father.

Mornings we arise in darkness: boy wakes first father, then mother—I am dragged out of bed by their laughter, the day’s light just leaking around the edges of the bare maples—the kind of moment one would still in a photograph if this fog, that pink glow, the steamed panes of the kitchen window would transfer to paper as anything more than shadow. In winter we wait for morning, wait for sun, long for snow to cover the ground

and wash us in its bright whiteness. And as the frozen ground thaws, we sink into it just a little more, our backyard swampy as the bogs my father walked as a child. Tonight I swear the darkness has an actual weight to it; it wraps us like my layers of sweater, wool coat, scarf, boots. We light a fire and smoke fills the house, clouding with soot every window. My brother’s wife is in labor: redemption for a year of miscarriages and still

birth. Helpless from 1200 miles away, I lie awake and still all night. Their baby like a root out of dry ground, a gift to close a season of loss, a window opened to sun after a week of rain. I imagine my little brother opening the hospital room curtains to the morning’s light as I brew coffee, fold my son’s diapers, prepare to spend the day waiting

for his phone call. Two years ago it was us in wait: my belly out to here, waking day after day to find myself still pregnant. Pregnant forever, it seemed. In late December, the day’s light fades before supper, but each night we walked our street until the ground bore a rut beneath our feet. Our son would wait two more weeks, meeting his papa well into the new year. And of course everything changed. The wind

blows all the fallen leaves out of the garden, revealing the bare ground spotted with kale stalks. The whole earth groans for its father, anxious and grasping as the boy still leaning into the window.