My father, who dies on the longest night of the year, returns
a month later, somehow fifty-three years old, a wild-eyed charmer,
to tell me that the dead aren't worrying about the living, that
each snowflake falling is a wish spoken before it hits the earth.
I am half awake, I rub my eyes. He stamps the porch, begging
for a decent cup of coffee, saying he has no rest for all those wishes,
no sleep for all those mad-rushes to pull us safely
to the curb. I am skeptical. I hand him his coffee: milk, no sugar.
He has that sheepish grin, that wolf-sure twinkle. "Tell me
you aren't disappointed, Dad, show me how you know
it's all okay." He guffaws his coffee. "I would sleep like the dead.
Instead, I have dervish-toddlers, toothless men. Mostly I have you.
Lighten up, they say, winter's my busy season." I blink, his cup
is empty, I was about to make us tea. His shoes wait by his empty bed,
Goodwill is coming next month. Each day I walk through a forest
with somebody's name carved on a tree. All winter, during long
feathery nights, wishes swirl round the house, falling
on the neighborhood, on the chimneys while we sleep.