I spend much time in Ohio these days due to a project our company is deploying. So naturally I think about Ohio and the times I have visited there throughout my life.
Many years ago, on a business trip to Cleveland, I remembered that the maternal grandparents of my children first met there, and started their lives together. They had told us the story many times: They met because they both worked in the same building on Euclid and 9th. So I went for a walk that night to explore, and when I got back to my hotel room, I wrote a poem, saved it off and then never published it anywhere.
I have always been fascinated about fate, and particularly how specific moments in time can have massive consequences. Two people meet by chance, and an entire family tree is created, giving life to sometimes dozens of others, who would never have existed, if it hadn’t been for that one simple twist of fate.
I wrote the following poem that night many years ago. Today it gets to see the light of day:
Euclid and 9th
I step out of the front door of the Hampton Inn
Right across the street from the cathedral.
Whose yellow and light orange stones,
Its majestic facades,
Reflect in the glass towers,
That dwarf the house of God on all sides.
I turn right, heading south.
It’s early October,
A stiff breeze whips up East 9th Street
And chills the back of my neck and ears.
I look at myself in the reflections of the shop windows.
A middle-aged bald man wearing bifocals,
In need of a hat to keep warm.
Faded blue jeans, white sneakers, red T-shirt,
Huddling in a brown corduroy jacket
That is a bit too thin for this cold wind.
Just a block up ahead is Euclid and 9th,
The heart of downtown Cleveland.
She told me Euclid and 9th,
That’s the best I remember.
I look for a building that could have been there
A long fifty-five years ago.
It can only be the north-east corner,
The Huntington Bank Building.
All others are newer,
But then perhaps,
The building might no longer be there,
Replaced by a glass tower long ago,
Without any trace.
I step between massive stone columns,
Push through a heavy glass circular door
Into the lobby of the Huntington Bank.
Hushed quietness swallows me
And I am small and out of place in my blue jeans.
I should be wearing a suit and a briefcase full of cash.
Glorious giant columns hold up an arched ceiling
At least five stories high
That belongs into a church, not a bank.
Marble all around.
The lobby is off to the right.
I breathe in the silence of the building,
I sense the passing of years.
This must have been the building where they first met,
More than half a century earlier,
On Euclid and 9th.
And even if it was not the very building,
I see the streets out front,
The cars look different today
Than they looked in the forties.
But it was in this space,
Where a meeting of two strangers
Turned into courtship, then love
And then marriage.
They had three children
Now all around fifty in age.
I married the youngest,
We had two children,
Who are now alive,
Because two people met so long ago,
Near Euclid and 9th.
The lovers can never come back to this spot.
Their children never visited here,
Only heard the stories,
Many times over.
The two grandchildren will never come here.
They have not heard the stories,
And do not know their origins.
Only I stand here
A bystander, really,
A happenstance contributor to their offspring,
And I wonder how many other lives were created
In this building
By the coincidental meeting of two lovers.
The building is still here, royal, important.
Lifetimes in its memory,
Because I am here,
And I remember
That important things happened here,
On Euclid and 9th.