I had to lean the ladder against the eaves
and stand upon the third step up
to drive its ladderfeet down through snow.
Had to take the pushbroom up
to clear a way along the roofpitch to the flue,
which had to be—the chore that ought to
have been done before but was not—swept
likewise clear. Or almost, in a blizzard.
Had to wear a headlamp, had to thread
the four thirtysix-inch extension rods to the brush
and haul the twelve-plus feet
of bouncing apparatus up the ladder
to the flue. Had to pull the chimney cap
and see the throat of the stove choked
on creosote and fly-ash. Had to drive
the seven-inch brush down the six-inch hole
twice and pull it back up freckling
the roofsnow with black in the night.
Had to go inside and undo the flue pipe
and vacuum out the black and shining dust
with the shopvac then reconnect the flue.
Had to crumple newspaper and grid kindling
and light the fire. Had to dump the shopvac’s
black ghost behind the shed,
had to watch as snowfall
freckled the ash. Had to stand a while
plastered with snow and ash, smelling wood smoke.
Had to take the ladder down and put it away,
had to unthread the plungerod into four pieces again
and rap the wire brush against a tree.
Had to leave boots in the garage
and blackened coat and pants in the laundry.
Went ahead and undressed entirely
and walked upstairs naked
with fly-ash smeared face and sootified hands,
and had to wave at her while she sautéed some garlic.
Had to smile at her smile, had to shower.
Had to admit it was good to be home.
Robert Wrigley’s most recent book is Box (Penguin, 2017). He lives in the woods of northern Idaho with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes.