But I must confess that in order to take a real stab at this, I have gone into a piece of prose written last year on the anniversary of 9/11. I have a couple of reasons for this.
One is I stopped writing for 8 years post 9/11. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened. And that is a story or poem in and of itself.
Another is the movie I saw here this week for the first time: Poetry of Resilience, in conjunction with the introduction to Carolyn's "Poetry of Witness", something I encountered here for the first time as well.
The event of that Tuesday in 2011 probably shaped more lives collectively than anything else I have lived through --more than the mental illness and abusiveness peppering my childhood, more than the addiction rampant in the lineage of my children's father, more than a day trip to a town of psychics and mediums while on retreat.
As such I feel compelled to resurrect this piece and attempt the format of documentary poetry in it.
(Suffolk Street, Lower East Side, NYC)
I stumble into an affordable
sublet by sheer chance and luck,
once my luck begins to return,
that puts me in the midst
of a small artists haven
around a watering hole called
The Lotus Club. This Lower East Side
enclave is part of the last gasp of NYC
bohemianism that becomes forever
stamped out after the events surrounding
one week in early September of that year.
that they were
the last days
of an era - what
we know of now
as La Belle Epoque?
I doubt it. For one
thing, the expression
"La Belle Epoque"
- which, after all,
doesn't mean much
more than the good
old days - wouldn't
even have occurred
to them. The phrase
doesn't appear until
much later in the
century, when people
who'd lived their gilded
youths in the pre-war years s
tarted looking back
At my dead end place of employment du jour,
a sweatsuit clad, overweight and disheveled
young woman wanders into the upscale
Greenwich Village bath products shop
where I have been trained
to enumerate the glories of
Italian toothpaste and English shaving
soaps. It is a stunning cloudless
blue-sky afternoon, and the carcass of
smolders (a mere shade or two darker than my only
customer of the day's sweatpants) profusely
in the background. The name on the credit card
handed to me is 'Monica Lewinsky'.
me, but I will
firm on this point:
it was a consensual
came in the
I was made a
order to protect
It isn't what I will 'never forget'
but what I have been able (perhaps
chosen?) to remember:
A zombie migration
of soot covered office workers
marching up 2nd ave.
Those nice new autumn
Century 21 or Filene's Basement
ensembles hanging from bodies
in lopsided tatters - man made upper
soles distorted and misshapen from scorching.
One impossibly, brilliantly azure
sky marred only by twin ceaselessly
hemorrhaging black plumes.
Having the main East/WestHouston
Street artery to myself, despite
the southern skylines rupture,
on roller blades. High: adrenaline,
sattiva, space, whizzing smack dab
down its center (holy shit i think,
i will never be able to do this again
in guilty exhilaration) past police
barriers, and the culmination of these
meaning movement finally, in
one direction or the other- it is still
too early to tell. Swivel chairs,
desk calendars and formica hall
bathroom countertops, the new coffee
machine a girl from reception brought
in (in mid-brew even) all no doubt molten
with the possibility that decomposition
brings. And all like components
in an impeccable string section
harmony, contributing distinct scent
northward, silently, in a larger
whole's noxious breeze. The plumes only
look vague and like part of our island's
aura after dark, like something you may
have seen wafting out of Nell's
or Limelight once, now suddenly
another lifetime ago, something now
from an entirely past life- especially
on this first night when the
boyfriend I am not so crazy about
and I lie in his moldy Greenpoint
basement studio, and he tells
me he’s going to enlist, that everything
is different now, and that we
will have to stick together
even though he is not sure if he will
have to get up to drive the truck for Edgar
tomorrow. Several days later when a stranger
offers me, like a piece of bread,
with kindness in his heart, a small
white mask for shielding respiratory
orifices, I tentatively accept,
give it a try. And only then do tears
come. I wonder if they have the
same burning asbestos smell that
everything seems to have. They certainly
don't flow with the same ease I recall,
when tears encounter that first downward slope of
cheek. I don't know, they seem a bit laden.
I remove the mask and brush
a tear away with an index finger,
inspect it. Looks the same although
I wonder if a microscope might
reveal black specks. I taste it.
Slightly acrid. Stuff mask in bag
and wander around in search of friends
congregating in dazed clusters on
East Village streets. The rest, I am sorry,
I may have (for now) chosen to forget.