IV. 9/11/01


“I’m so glad you’re okay” she said.

And she embraced him for the first time.



Flight won over fight

People were their best selves

People were their worst selves

Posters heralding some hot band

At some local dive

Stared indifferently at the chalk covered hordes marching by.


And he thought to himself

“What day is it today? What’s the date?”

Tomorrow no one would ever forget.


Her hug was warm and slight

Her weight around his shoulders barely registered

But for one second she chased away the bad dreams.


In the years ahead she would chase them away again

Though she never knew that was what she was doing.


She was barely conscious.


He woke up sweating…

… and he called her name until she woke up, too.


“What?” she mumbled, not pleased at the interruption.

“I had a bad dream.

I was playing with a dog. It was aggressively friendly

then it attacked me.”


Her eyes narrowed, then shut.

She rolled away from him.

“Okay. Go back to sleep.”


But in his dreams he had fallen

Fallen out of the window and into clouds

Or into a plume of smoke

Pouring from a gaping hole in the building’s side

Before he saw the stone tiles of the mall rushing up.


“Someone’s jumping!” A woman screamed

And what he had never told her

What he’d never said to anyone

Was that he wanted to see someone fall.


That tiny x plummeting from above the building

And disappearing a moment before life was extinguished

Would haunt him for the rest of his days.


He wanted to see someone fall.

Had he wanted to see someone die?

What kind of person did that make him?


During the impromptu bible study that night

(there were very few atheists left in New York that day)

He was grateful for the company

But he couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

It was the first time she had held him.


He called friends and family when he could

The phone lines were jammed, much like the city streets

In New York, children can go to school in three feet of snow

But the city isn’t prepared for a mass exodus


The subways stopped

There were no cabs to be had

And those who had them went nowhere

New York City was a parking lot now.


Later, when all those Xeroxed pictures

Of all those happy faces gone missing

Cried out in desperation to the millions of passers-by

“Have you seen me? Have you seen me?”

The parking lots in Jersey City were filled with cars

That would never be claimed by their owners.


He had been on his way to work

Getting out on the Cortlandt Street stop

Everyone felt the shudder and paused

But dismissed it as the subway’s escape

As it rumbled and shrieked off into the darkness


On his way to work he passed a Banana Republic

In the Mall under the World Trade Center…

He skirted under the building

then continued to the custom house

But not today


Everyone stood frozen, and he thought

(where did these thoughts come from)

Did an epileptic have a seizure?


That was before they started running

And he looked past the crowd

and thought he saw a white wall sliding down

A yellow bulb flashing


In restrospect it could have been smoke

But he didn’t wait to see

“A bomb!” he panicked, and ran back the other way

Trying to outpace the bomber he imagined was behind him


That night, walking on a basketball court with a friend

In the cool of the evening

With her hug still on his mind

(He could still feel her arms round his neck –

That balm that soothed the terror)

He heard the other say “How’re you doing with all this?”


“I can’t really talk…” he started, “I mean, okay. Scared

But I’m more afraid of…”

And he paused while his friend waited patiently.


Earlier he had tried to meet this friend at the Bowery mission

He sprinted across the city but Ryan had gone

Before the parking lot took affect.

From there he heard, then saw the Towers fall.


Fortunately Ryan called his parents

(upon his request)

They hadn’t heard the news

So they knew he was okay

Before they knew he was in danger.

Before the phones went down

And the phone lines out of the city

Turned to spaghetti.


He tried to take a bus

But it only made it two blocks

Before the driver let everybody out


James got off the bus, too.

A friend from a former job

They walked together from Chambers Street

To 21st Street in Queens.


Like so many others

James was covered from head to toe

In that white chalky powder.


Just like the person walking past the parking garage

Barely aware of who she was or where she was going

Clearly stunned, displaced in time.


Fortunately, some thoughtful New Yorker

Driving her black SUV out of the parking garage

Reminded the ghost colored woman of exactly where she was


With an angry,



blare of her horn.


The ghost looked up at the enraged face inside the SUV

Gave a slight nod

And stepped aside so the other could tear out of the garage

And into the parking lot that was Manhattan.


Then there was the boy on the third floor balcony

maybe of middle eastern descent

No more than ten

Flipping the bird at the crowds walking by.


As he  and James walked past the U.N.

He worried that it might be the next target


It was a scene out of a World War II film

With all the refugees trudging to… where, exactly?


Cars on the street opened their doors

Bars on the street opened their doors

radios and TVs on either side of the sidewalk

announced the news

Tom Brokaw told them it was an act of terrorism

That someone had done this on purpose

But he knew that when the second plane hit.


He ran to the subway stairs and knew he’d gone the wrong way.

The steps were covered with debris

Chalky powder

And paper…


So much paper.


It was a beautiful day.

The first brisk morning of September

Cool enough that he wished he’d worn a jacket

Though by mid day there was no need


As he looked up out of the square opening

Where the subway steps led out

He noticed fluttering objects

Blocking a cloudless blue sky


It took him a moment to realize

that the dreamlike, fluttering objects

were sheets of common office paper

the kind you buy in bulk at Staples.


And his eyes followed that paper trail








To the smoke and flames

pouring from the puncture in the building


It was a plane, someone said

And he imagined a private plane had careened out of control

Though the hole was so huge

And the steel seemed to bend outward at its borders


“Someone’s jumping!” She screamed.

And he looked.

Because he wanted to see.


“What?” She grumbled,

pulling the covers over the little ones in between

who had freed themselves from the sheets.

“I had a bad dream. A man was outside the window.

He was watching Amelia.”


Her tired eyes widened slightly,

Maybe slightly alarmed.

She put an arm over the sleeping babe

turned to the window,

Then twisted back…


And for a second,

When their eyes locked,

hers were laced with care

And her voice was almost soothing.


“Go back to sleep”, she muttered

And she turned away from him.




He heard it hit.

He saw the tongue of flame

lick outward at the neighboring buildings


And everyone ran.


One woman tripped,

But before she hit the pavement

He had one arm

A stranger had another


“Are you ok?” the stranger asked her,

and nodded acknowledgement to him.

She nodded as well, offering thanks

And three strangers parted, never to see one another again.


Walking up Lexington Avenue

The rumors started

“Did you hear they hit Harlem?”

“Do you know the Washington Mall’s on fire?”

“They said five planes rained down uptown!”


Oh… a side note:

he noticed a difference in attitudes from Chambers to 57th


Below Union Square the crowd was silent

Defeated Soldiers marching home after the war


On 34th Street people watched from a distance with terror

“Would there be more?” and “What will they do next?”


Uptown, curiosity won the day.

“Did you see it?” They asked. “What was it like?”


He was most terrified crossing the 57th Street Bridge

Worried from one end to the other that a plane would strike

And he would burst into flames

Doused only by the river far below.



He and James stepped off the bridge into Queens.

Into a different world.


On the evening of the attack

a fledgling church gathered together

Including the woman who would one day be his bride

And who, after she could put up with it no longer,

Would one day leave him with nothing but his thoughts.


Two days after she left

On the 16th Anniversary

for first time since it had happened

They weren’t together.


Now he was alone

With the memory of a hug.

The balm that soothed the terror.


He heard Ryan say “How’re you doing with all this?”


“I can’t really talk…” he started, “I mean, okay. Scared

But I’m more afraid of…”


He paused while his friend waited patiently.


“What I’m most afraid of is…”


He stared into the sky,

Shut his eyes

But he still saw the tiny x falling out of the sky


“Today I escaped. At least, I think I did. But I know that one day…”


And then… an irrational thought….

Had he fallen, he wondered?

Was this all a dream?


But no. She had embraced him. For the first time.


“I’m scared that one day…” he trembled,

“One day, this is just going to be some simpleton’s anecdote.”


Bare feet pounding furiously against the dark pavement,

In an unfriendly world his bearings were shot

His mind firmly fixed on her crestfallen visage

Her knees in the waves and her tearful eyes hot


Such a ridiculous moment, easily avoided

All he really wanted was to look like James Bond

A surgeon would’ve found his instructions confusing

But her expression betrayed she’d most likely been conned


Into marrying a man who downplayed her joy

In service of an image he was desperate to find

She misunderstood my, oh, what does it matter

I only wanted her closer, well, hell, never mind.


The accented voice still stung in his ears –

“Hey people, stop fighting, that guy took your bag!”

The new husband caught not one quick glimpse of his quarry

The new wife resisted the innate urge to nag.


She carefully counted which treasures were missing

The second cruel theft in the space of a week

At the airport they’d made off with her fresh spouse’s passport

His license fell victim to this losing streak


Along with her nighties, her birth control, meds

His cell phone and Gaudi pics, seven whole rolls

They’d filched his prize camcorder, Ray Bans, His iPod

some books, the camera bag – filthy damn trolls


He returned empty handed, which was what she expected

the blame quickly swung from the crooks to her man

her fraught desperation with the medicines missing

Stilled her temptation to place flames before fan.


An hour deposits them safe at the airport

Both happy to leave Barcelona behind

He thinks “maybe one day we’ll go back in future”

While she longs to put all of it out of her mind.



Her quirky profile

poked out

from behind the faces of friends turned obstacles.

(Who is she?  Is she with our group?)

What magical winds had brought her to him

with elfin face and impish smirk?

Outside their little bubble a modernized hymn droned…

Oh for a thousand… Oh for a thousand…


( she looks like the hero in that movie THE DARK CRYSTAL)

Her hair was dark and stringy

bobbed in page style

Nose and mouth swept together in perfect harmony.

Her nose was her prominent feature…

upturned slightly, thrust proudly forward

Its apex a perfect point.

She stopped singing, looked through the bulletin…

Her interest skipping from section to section.

(Is that the tip of her tongue on her upper lip?)

Then, back to the hymn.

…Oh for a thousand… tongues to sing…


His peripheral captured her perfect visage

memorized it in stolen glances

Always aware of the danger

that she might see him staring.

(THE DARK CRYSTAL.  I’m an idiot.)

Her mouth was a thin slash

Higher up on her face than the average mouth?

Her pointed chin set itself apart from a well defined jaw,

Her thin lips crept up slightly on one side

Like she had a secret she wasn’t prepared to share.

And leap you lame for joy…

oh, for a thousand… oh, for a thousand…


There was a chameleon-like quality to her eyes,

Large, sunken, dark with dark circles…

(Does she have trouble sleeping, I wonder?)

And then…

Something mischievous.

Something intriguing,

Something sad?

Stringy bangs pushed back by thin fingers

Her eyes closed as the song took her further from him.

She added her voice to the other voices

blended together in throng.

Look and be saved through faith alone

Be justified by grace.


(Okay, deep breath… Body?)

She was smallish, but not short.

Fine boned.

She wore a loose fitting denim colored dress

Which refused to betray her figure

and a silver hued ring

…on the wrong hand.

Possibly full-ish breasts

Under shoulders held unnaturally stiff

And below,

Escaping the hem of her unrevealing dress

Were shortened calves

ending in knobby feet

shrouded in sandals.

Dear God, who was this goddess?

From whence had she come?

O For a thousand tongues to sing

My dear Redeemer’s praise!


And suddenly, inspiration.

Fingering his pocket

fumbling with the hard case

He groped at it, turned it on its side,

Heard the soft rattle as the container flipped over…

and over…

Heard each pill displaced and rearranged

before it twisted out of his grip

and the small plastic box retreated

further into his pocket,

the clatter dampened by the depths of cloth.

(This is so stupid.  She doesn’t even care that I exist.)

My gracious Master and my God

assist me to proclaim…


Once more, this time decisively

He drew it from the deep pocket

Wrestled briefly with the plastic tab

and poured six? No, seven

of the tiny orange capsules in his palm

He offered one to the person on his right

Popped three in his mouth

Offered some to the obstacles separating THEM.

(No, leave some for her, you….!!)

He fumed at the faux pas

as the worship leader inexplicably revisited earlier stanzas.

Harlots and publicans and thieves…


Harried but undeterred

he carried on with his mission

Silently held out the tiny clear monolith to her

She paused her singing for a moment

Looked at it

Smiled with a quizzical eye

Held out her hand

He gently shook two tablets free

…and their eyes made contact.

She smiled.

Nodded thanks.

The transaction completed, the connection formed, his fever passed

he glanced at the crumpled program in his hand

and sang…

Oh, for a thousand…. Oh, for a thousand…!








Angry eyes burn behind glass
Heavy lids above and below.
Thin threads of black
that compliment the tight thread of her mouth

No love left in those narrowed orbs
Which in earlier days sparked with wry humor
Only pain and fury now.


Any passerby could see the message written there
Anyone with eyes could read the future
Anyone… save the fool upon whom that GLARE was fixed


He raged and ranted and raved while she smoldered.
He berated and belittled while she built her fortress

Escaping within

She never warned him with words
There was no need
There was no room
His words had taken up every inch


But any fool

Any eyes

could see.


Except him
Except his.


So while he waxed philosophic (so astute, so erudite)
Guiding her point by point through the maze of her wrongdoing
She built her fortress

Escaping within

And fixing him with

that GLARE.



When at last her internal escape transitioned
when she finally ripped apart the fabric of his life


He stood alone.




In the desert

In his damnation

In her absence

Through his pain



All he could see
were those eyes GLARING back




And he marveled that he had not seen them before now.