Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
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Two months before the terrorist attack
a sixteen-year-old walked into a hospital
in New York City,
handed the receptionist a note —
“Please donate my organs in case of death” —
then blew his brains out in front of her.
Six hours later his removed eyes
were transplanted into the empty eye sockets
of a sixty-year-old woman
blind since birth
who two months later
turned on morning TV to see
No one ever saw two
of the tallest buildings
burn and collapse
in less time than it took
the Titanic to sink.
Walt Whitman 150 years ago
stood where the World Trade Center towers
would stand and
looked up at circling sea gulls
looking down at him,
skyscrapers so high
would be built
or jet planes exist
by deranged fanatics
into those skyscrapers
because they think
God wants them to.
Ten years ago at the victory parade
in downtown Manhattan
after the Persian Gulf War,
snowstorms of confetti
wafted down on drunk celebrators
from triumphant skyscrapers above,
from soaring and mighty skyscrapers above.
Makes me wish Immortality existed
for the victims and their loved ones,
even if it doesn’t exist,
makes me wish it true for them.
Makes me wish there were a heaven
that could compensate for this hell.
One American said
he wouldn’t be satisfied
till he saw children in Afghanistan
running down the street on fire, screaming.
Another told his girlfriend as she ate dinner
there are more rats in New York City than people
and he couldn’t get out of his mind the image
of thousands of rats descending into the ruins at night
following dark shadows under debris,
under twisted metal girders, down, down,
to eat body parts of mothers, fathers,
brothers, sisters, lovers, friends. . . .
She said she wished he hadn’t brought it up
while she was eating.
Rats don’t know about hijackers or what caused
the magnificent towers to come crashing down,
but it makes them happy night after night,
a midnight feast under
subterranean skyscraper rubble.
Have the winds blown enough
by now that we have all breathed
particles of the burned-up corpses?
Sooner or later all of us will inhale
invisible remains of the incinerated victims,
their atoms and molecules spinning in space,
transported by breezes little by little
dispersing outward, spreading outward
till all of us have inside us through breathing
the vanished corpses that will never be found
but that found us and became
buried within us.
A sea gull circles and soars
where the skyscrapers once stood,
wondering what happened
to the two huge monoliths
and the shadows
they cast on each other.
Meanwhile four miles from Ground Zero
in the Frick Gallery near Central Park
in a room next to the marble courtyard
with its pillar’d colonnade and arching skylight,
with its fountain pool with two gold frogs at either end
spurting continuous long arcs of water,
Saint Francis in Ecstasy by Giovanni Bellini,
painted the same year Columbus set sail
in search of a New World,
still shows Saint Francis barefoot in his monk’s robe
emerging from his hermit cave
leaving behind his desk with closed Bible and human skull
looking up with arms outstretched in awe
to fields and woods and mountains
as the sunrise engulfs the world
in the light of another day.
I’m a new subscriber and read each issue of The Sun from cover to cover. Antler’s poem “Skyscraper Apocalypse” [March 2002] was not worthy of your publication. Those images of rats eating corpses were utterly disturbing and, more important, unnecessary. “Not while I’m eating” indeed!