WINTERDREAM

A homeless man in his 50s was found frozen to death the morning after Christmas at a downtown bus stop in the city I call home….though it might have been any city on earth where cold weather reigns this time of year.  Local homeless advocates said he was known to them: a drug addict who recently relapsed after staying clean for several months.

The homeless here have no ‘home’ in which to stay (homeless shelters are open only overnight, not all day), but each one has a name, a face, and (no doubt at some point in his or her life) a dream. The frozen man’s name was Ken Martin. His face was invisible. His dream? Perhaps it was something along the lines of this poem I wrote years ago:

WINTERDREAM

Suppose a homeless man came upon
what survived of a tattered old jacket,
abandoned, like himself,
to the elements….
and in that tattered garment,
crumpled up inside a pocket,
a winning lottery ticket
might transform his existence.

But first, that paper future must be
found, and then, having been found,
not tossed like litter to the gutter,
unopened and unexamined.
Let us further suppose
the deadline to claim its prize
was coming at midnight
of that very day.

That night, in winter’s turn,
the man had a dream
that he could live his life
all over again,
knowing in his lost youth
what he knew now
so that all the choices
and hidden chances
of wasted turning points
again lay open before him.

But the thought made him cringe
— regret was a fire
that gave pain without heat.
He awoke in cold sweat
to the taste of snow
on the cracks of his lips,
pulling tight the collar
of today’s good fortune.
What luck to have found
a buffer against fate.