Terminal Burrowing

But he was not buried in Minneapolis
At least.
And no more may I be
Please God.
~ James Wright

Handsome Sven’s on the TV, jabbering about the weather. He says it’s been the coldest winter in decades, but I don’t need a meteorologist to tell me that. All I have to do is look outside my window: You’ve never seen an old dog look more pitiful trying to pee fast and not sink into a six-foot snow-drift.

I’ve spent over half of my life in this state. Hell, even James Wright couldn’t hack it. I wish he would have gotten out of Minneapolis more, he might have liked it better in Waconia. There’s hot coffee and donuts at every gas station from here to Ortonville. There’s a community of ice houses on every frozen lake. Even though there’s more drinking than writing poetry in them, you have to admire the occupants for being creative. I should hate it here, but I don’t.

It’s true. I haven’t seen a neighbor in months, but at the grocery store today a tall grey-bearded man with a staff in his hand held the door open. He looked so wise and reminded me of Gandalf (except for the purple Vikings sweatshirt). His lips were dry and cracked and even though it must have hurt, he smiled. Meanwhile, over in the produce section I overheard a young woman say, It sure is cold, but at least the sun is shining. And then I heard another woman with my grandma’s voice say, Today’s the kind of day to stay home and make soup.

I let the dog back in, shut the TV off and warm up my soup. I wrap myself up in my blanket and sink into the couch. I pick up a magazine and find an article about hypothermia. It says that in the final stages of hypothermia, humans have been known to dig themselves into a hole and die. It’s called “terminal burrowing” and it has something to do with the brainstem shutting down. Well now, that’s one hell of a metaphor. That explains everything.

Previously published in Talking Stick, Vol, 24., and Home: An Anthology of MN Fiction, Memoir and Poetry (Flexible Press, 2019).

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