The Days Since
Jenna Orkin WTC Environmental Organization
In Union Square, a shrine appears
and then another til the place
attracts reporters who report
its volunteers' hard work and grace.
A fireman with a haunted look
sits on the bench, his eyes rimmed red.
A woman asks him, "Coffee? Bagel?"
Without a word, he shakes his head.
Around, a wall of Wanted posters,
'wanted' in that other sense;
the Missing, all so very young.
The pictures stay up on the fence
for weeks, for who will tear them down?
Who'd commit that sacrilege?
And yet one night, somebody does
when hope takes its last breath. It was,
in retrospect a far-fetched dream
that anybody would be found
and nursed to health when a million tons
of stuff had crumbled to the ground.
A fire truck, not red but beige
with dust in which someone has written,
"God bless the New York Fire Depart-
ment." Someone else has drawn a heart.
Across the street, the rectory,
where Father Michael combed his hair,
they said at his memorial,
and raced downtown to die in prayer.
T-shirts needed! Dogfood! Boots!
AOL provides a list,
all obsolete; they're overwhelmed
downtown. The chance is sorely missed
by millions who want to help out
and be part of this aweful thing.
For nothing matters next to this.
God bless America they sing
at services all over town,
at meetings of the PTA,
at school, in concert on TV
they sing from sea to shining sea.
The weeks go on and still the fire burns.
At Fulton Street the smell
still greets whoever's on the train
and says, "Ascend and witness Hell."
Upstairs the crowd stands quietly
and takes it in. The tired cops
sigh, "All right, move it; that's enough"
to tourists snapping photo ops.
For foreigners are less appalled,
they, never having known it when.
It's metal's bent like willow branches.
The church clock's stopped at five to ten.
W-T-C, those letters,
now a code for grief and fear;
when I was studying music they
stood for the Well-Tempered Clavier.
A few blocks down, at Trinity,
the ancient graveyard's buried, itself,
in dust. Another wrenching sign:
Its clock is stopped at five to nine.
Home is no relief, indeed
it fuels the burning energy
that drives us to consume more facts,
here life is centered on TV.
The people falling upside down,
A man says he stayed in the room
by clinging to the doorknob which
saved him from the fierce vacuum.
A man and woman holding hands
fall - lovers? strangers? who cares, now? -
willing, finally, to greet
Death just to get out of the heat.
The cast of characters comes on:
Rumsfeld, grim, tightlipped, thank God,
Powell and Fleischer jauntier
as they joust with the press. It's odd
how recent enemies are heroes,
Giuliani, for example
and former wits are reverent
towards our formerly witless President.
No one ridicules him now.
Indeed, he's less ridiculous.
If he said, 'Pakistanians" now
no one would make such a fuss.
He gears us up for what's in store
This is a whole new kind of war.
The women, Paula Zahn, Queen Noor
at one A.M. her time, Amanpour
reporting from Islamabad
in khaki, like a Sabra, say.
"She has a son, you know,"
"She does? But where is she from, anyway?"
"Eat dinner out! Go spend your money!"
they tell us. "See a play! A game!"
"Don't let the bastards get you down!"
(And don't buy Middle Eastern honey.)
"Be careful of suspicious mail!
Don't touch it, move it; leave the room!
It could contain an anthrax powder!
Call 911!" You can't assume
the world's a friendly place these days.
Despite the work of CIA,
the FBI's half million tips,
we're speeding towards Apocalypse.
New Yorkers soon are introduced
to war and its accoutrements,
gas masks, filters, body suits,
an unaccustomed vigilance.
We acquire expertise
in germs and chemicals right quick:
Sarin, hemorrhagic virus,
meanwhile, a little Arabic.
A money system based on trust
that leaves no trace, the East's hawala;
schools that feed while they instill
a willingness to die for Allah.
We're not so loved as we had thought
The world prepares for years of war
as oppressed people rise protesting,
"We won't take it anymore!"
In China, the disaster footage
is seen as just another thriller
interspersed with scenes from films
found on the shelf, next to Godzilla.
In Pakistan the angry mob
protests American arrogance.
From Malaysia to Nigeria
many think we've had our recompense
especially the Taliban
who escort foreign journalists
to show them what the angry mob'll
avenge: The mile miss outside Kabul.
Monday morning: To the doctor.
After all, life must go on.
"Oh by the way, could I have Cipro?"
The doctor, adamantly con,
however, thinks I am in error
to give in to those guys whose aim
is not just to destroy and kill
but also to instill in us, terror.
The city's quieter, subdued.
Where did everybody go?
Will we be quarantined? Cut off?
Do they know something we don't know?
I walk down to the water's edge.
A child places a bouquet
at a shrine outside the park
where I used to bring my son to play.
A picture rests against the fence
to show the viewer where the World
Trade Center stood before that day
when we all lost our innocence.