Wednesday, September 11, 2013


A moon-sized orange pumpkin
exploded in the sky,
close enough
so the force
and the heat
knocked me back
against the steel
hip-hop high school doors.
I was a counselor then,
trying to get the kids
to do what I couldn't--
not get high.
I was outside
after the first blast
made me curious enough
to find out
what was what.
The school was in the shadow
of The Brooklyn Bridge,
Manhattan side,
adjacent to One PP.
I watched the plume
of black charcoal smoke
obey the wind
and gravity
and wonder
along with my Spanish thief colleague,
some kids and other teachers,
what the hell happened?
Small aircraft,
one cop said;
some kind of internal combustion,
another blue badge muttered.
I was listening, but watching
the arc of the second
plane, making what looked
like a lazy U-turn
into the second tower.

We got the kids out,
and waited for the ones with deformities
to be picked-up and brought out without
much more trauma.
The cops
like Border Collies,
herded us up,
and funneled us North.
It was a pilgrimage
painted by Goya
during his "Black" period.
No one spoke;
no one looked at the other,
until a man shuffling beside me said,
the second tower fell.
Fell where,
I wondered.

I didn't live far
from the inferno.
I rounded my block
twenty-five minutes later
and saw the face
of my young Japanese wife
waiting for me downstairs
in the street
with many others.
Her face ghostly,
her fingers nervous,
to touch my face, arm,
chest, back, hair, anything
and everything
that wasn't ash
and shadow.
She'd seen many like me
imprinted into the sides of buildings
and concrete isles in her city,
For me it was merely shocking;
for her it was coded
into her DNA.
She told me
she had to donate blood
immediately and asked
to go to the nearest hospital,
St. Vincent's. I pretty much knew
it would be useless,
but didn't tell her that,
couldn't tell her that,
her eyes told me
not to tell her that,
so instead stood with her
on a line and was
never called.
There were no bodies;
they'd been vaporized.
All too human one minute,
ashes the next.
She tried again and again
for the next three days
then gave it up.
Before she'd leave our pad
she stuffed four kinds of documentation
into her bag in case she'd get merely dead,
not disappear.
If nothing else she thought
her mother should know.

The smell of wet ash,
flesh and fire and paper
and steel smoldering strong
and acrid stayed in the air
and our lungs for quite some time.
Peoples lives, those who still lived,
crumbled with the towers, too,
leaving a wide scar
across the breath of a goddamn
tough city. But no matter
how hard and tough you are
shit like that just embeds
itself and becomes your partner
silent or otherwise
and takes the space
it wants.

Forget the memorials
and forego the bullshit speeches.
Just the date is enough.
Let the ones who were not there,
who came and will come after me
be wise
to cheap sentiment.
My wife and I
survived the towers,
but our marriage couldn't survive
my self-destructive
nature; two years later
it fell, too.
We've both rebuilt
our lives without
each other
knowing it,
but our bones remain
attuned, to what
is coming
our way.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2013

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