Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memory


I. First Leaves

Outside was the whole world:
There were the first leaves, turning;
the coffee shop; the office parking lot, half full—
I was earlier than usual, and as I turned the car off,

the last chirrup of radio:
There is word a plane has collided

Inside, the halls were formless,
the nameplates bore no letters.

We saw Pakistan for the first time:
the news kept cutting to a woman
ululating celebration.
We had never noticed her before;

we thought we were flying to San Francisco,

we had poppies in our hair,

we had warmed our lips with lattes,

we had names and shoes and outside
was autumn, the first leaves turning

in the trees: our dim acquaintance with fire.

II. Leonids

They were supposed to infuse the sky with light,
transfix our eyes with a radiance so vast
it might roar, like Christ come back as lion—

At three I left the city to see the sky
unstained by unbuilding,
past layers of dust, past tourists who’d come to stare.

In the park, cars had gathered; headlights
shone through exhaust, fog had fallen.

All around strangers moved through the dark,
craning our necks toward the sky
we hoped would come through,

give us something grand to hook our hopes to—

but when the meteors fell it was in silence,
their trails slight as scraping claws
of a hungry stray locked just beyond the door.

III. Lobby

The high window springs a leak of light
past the flags, across the marble floor,
washing the branded lobby,
spangling the eyes of the desk clerks,
the tender at the empty bar.

No one’s flying now.
The charred hull lies only a mile away;
the locals are drinking at home, their eyes
bound to their televisions.
Late afternoon, mid autumn, but the heat is stifling,

and there’s a bride coming in the sliding door.
Her dress is dirty at the hem,
her makeup creasing beneath
her eyes—still,
the staff around the lobby glance up,
then stare, when she appears.

Transfigured by the sunlight through the glass,
which, fixed in time, seems more fire than light,

she is, in the precision and toil of her finery,
so common even now,
that if the hotel staff lose their breath a moment

it is not beauty that pulls it from their lungs,
but this moment of the ordinary resuming,
the needle set back to the groove
where music stopped.

It is simply out of amazement
that people still
do this thing, this way—

the plans, the hoist of girders’ order and design,
the gravity and balance required to rivet

one life to another until two
share a single silhouette,
visible from afar on any clear, bright morning.

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