This morning like every morning, I drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and watch day come in through the window of my small studio apartment. The window is worn with winter and brooding light. Crystal patterns grow like vines threatening to splinter the thin panes of glass. It is still too early for there to be traffic in downtown Cleveland. The streets are empty, except for the occasional truck carrying its industrial load to one of the businesses that remain. For twenty years, the city has been shrinking. The factories have closed and there have been many seasons of young men and women following jobs and careers and love interests far away. It has become a place of regret. The sea gulls that never seem to migrate call to the absence from melancholy sky.
I watch the union of homeless junkies gather for their morning service in the courtyard of the cathedral across the street. They are like any congregation of believers. Having faith that their lives are as much proof as any evidence of their dying, they reluctantly plan for something as supernatural as miracles. I watch them pad the iron and stone benches with layers of newspaper and plastic bags. The cold indifference of their morning haunt becomes as useful as the church sanctuary where they refuse to pray. What would change if they did pray? Would prayer satisfy the taste that entombs their tongues and leaves their bellies empty? I watch their ceremony, helplessly decoding the masterpiece of their survival. They will wait until noon for their dealers to arrive and deliver the sacrament. Until then, their bodies will grow small in every direction. They will be as knotted trunks bent with defeat in a season of exile, barren trees aching in the winter of loss.
I imagine seeing my father, in this scene, withering in the winter of his addiction. His silver flecks of hair multiply like snow and thick scars from years of shooting heroin run like dry rivers over his body. The ghosts of all the lost wars that haunted him stand beside him, a legend of remembrance. His eyes echo with burdens of pain he struggled to forget. I want to speak across that mythical ocean that connects islands of fathers to sons. I want to embrace him as a son who is not afraid to forgive the years of his absence and abuse. I want to warn him against unending pain and summon wisdom to guide him through currents of sorrow. I am older now, and a poet. I can speak those carefully crafted silences, so many of them, memorialized in prayers for my father.