January 19, 1951

Brutally cold January night, but no surprise
to anyone living in Martins Ferry in 1951
Deep snow in layered drifts, like ocean waves
Piled high above front doorsteps

Blustering winds, howl like wildcats
Blowing pitch black coal furnace soot
onto pristine white fresh fallen snow
Black and white, extremes amidst life’s limitless color

Most things, still waiting for spring to be born
4:14 AM, a tiny cry breaks the early morning air
Not winter’s angry wind, but a newborn
Taking life’s first frightening breath

And from that first breath, five hundred million more
Each a new beginning, strung together
like an unimaginably long pearl necklace
Worn as only a man at fifty-seven can wear

You look back, trying to understand
But you never really do
All you know is it all starts with a single breath, and
that is also how it finally ends