The Angels of Wine


He died before my children were born and I tell them 
about him sometimes, when I tell our family's stories -- 
uncle and godfather, raw-boned and visionary, alcoholic 
son and failed father, in the end a weak reed no one leaned 
upon, who struggled with his gloom and self-loathing and 
was caught in a trap he laid for himself in the teeth of the 
wind.
     He would listen to me in moments of clarity, 
drawing a breath as if waiting to speak then letting it out 
in a sigh and waiting for me to talk myself out.  He would 
nod when I said that life is not something that was waiting 
for us around the corner but was here and now, and then 
would ask me for money for a bottle of sweet wine, too 
tired and shaky to invent another lie.  It was not for his 
thirst, he would say, but because with it everything grew 
remote and the stars in the sky began to swim and the 
horizon expanded again.
     Once he said he thought we gave birth to our death, 
like something lifting inside us, like the tunnel where he 
thrashed and choked and could not breathe because there 
was no light.  That's how they found him early one 
morning as the sun touched the edges of his room: the 
artery in his liver spilling his life out into something 
scarlet and black, his nose burrowed between the thighs 
of the woman he lived with like a small lost dog looking 
for the place he'd come from and where he wanted to 
return.
     I think of him like that but do not tell my children 
the details of his final story: lying in the dark in a pool of 
his own blood, not knowing what was rolling over him 
as a veil of grayness covered his eyes, perhaps dreaming 
one last time of the daughter he had abandoned or the 
grandchildren he would never see or the angels that 
would come to him with the wine in the dead of night.