Sep '02 [Home]
By Degree 365:  Year One of 9/11

Feature Anthology:Points of the Circle

Point of Distance

an embryo's perspective ~ Robin Lim | I Could Have Opened the Windows and Seen Things Differently ~ Martin Willits, Jr. | wasn't that us? ~ Denver Butson | Like Whispers Turning ~ Mary Leonard | Assault on the Second Wall ~ Mervyn Taylor

Point-Blank | Point of Honor | Disrepair | Order | Point Resumed

"New York, the 11th (July 26, 1788)"
(ink on paper) © 2002 Big City Lit

We, the outside, like night is
outside a star's two-faced profile, watching
old light twinkle—a reminder
that universes have their life spans too.

—Elaine Schwager ("Living in the Falling Apart")

. .
an embryo's perspective
Robin Lim

A Hindu and an American got married.
OK, they were foolish
but that's their story.
The American can't get her husband a visa.
In his country she is too white.
Now their child floats in the wine-colored wetlands
of my daughter's belly.
His heart is working at about 150 beats per minute.

In New York City
and in Washington all the angles of our brief
history make a circle and bow their heads in crying.
My unborn grandson feels his mother's heart recede
from him. It is not a good time to be anyone.

My eyes are too dry, as if to cry
would be a selfish thing; after all I am alive
and did not have to choose between fire, the weight of concrete
and steel, or jumping from a high window.

My grandson sends me a tentacle,
As fine as a camel's eyelash but long and curling.
He reaches across time,
to tell me something in a language not of his mother's
people, and not any tongue his father speaks.

I bow my head along with the disappointed angels
And listen, and hope to make out his meaning.

~ . ~

I Could Have Opened the Curtains and Seen Things Differently
Martin Willits, Jr.

Tuesday was blank as a white canvas
And noisy with passing blue traffic.
I could have fallen in and out of love all day
Easily as closing or opening venetian blinds.

I started the day with unbuttered toast
And folded the impatient laundry,
Sewed a loose rampant button
Quick as a black widow spider's web.

The buzz of morning news on the radio
Became hazy as early frost sliced by the same cars.
The darting flash of my hands
And vacant stare reflected on the television
Remind me of routines blending days into years
Until I have no need for lists
And unremarkable groceries rain on my forehead.
The doors evaporate and enfold as prayer hands.
I scratch the unreachable itch
And clocks chime about lateness of excitement.
My dark shoes pace without me
While dogs growl at planes overhead.
I have to wonder if my work clothes are ironed,
If my blue tie is neat as a safety pin,
If my zipper is closed as a sleeping baby's mouth.
At work, I struggle with unfinished projects
And remember the unforgiving way
I laid down the butter knife
And tasted slowly the white center of an Oreo cookie.

Then the news oozes into our shadows
As surely as the airplane slices a building
And my day becomes distracted
While panic releases like falling dominoes,
The hushed faces clenched as teeth.

This is the moment when nothing is normal
And you wish for the commonplace:
The cold soup; the dance of lover's words;
The warm breath turning into white puffs on cold days.
This is the despair of crickets at the end of summer.
This is the moment when you tuck in white sheets
Watching the spinning mobiles over a crib
Thinking about the times you walked by
The slightly peeling wallpaper
Thinking how you should repair it and never fix it.
At a moment like this, we desire normalcy
Wondering if the blue days will return like winter,
Or if each day will torment us with uncertainty.
We want to fold the days into origami flowers,
But hatred freezes the day into a single moment
Fleeting as ducks migrating.
We want a lazy cat to sleep contented in our laps.
We want to sigh with boredom
And fill the empty canvas with increasing colors.
Yet we are numb as an aching tooth.
We wait for love to return full bloom,
Or a stranger to sing the Blues.
It should have been a normal day, instead
We heard the shattered death of doves.
We have forgotten how to recognize ordinary things
As being extraordinary.
We forgot how to walk one step forward
In the sudden fragrance of strawberries.
We never expect to change directions
And follow the hallways.
Much has to be said for improvisation.
We wait for complicated tomorrows and wonder.

~ . ~

wasn't that us?
Denver Butson

these claw-marked discoveries
these dog-eared dreams of re-inventing sky

these remembered blossoms like stars
swimming in the moon's blood

now that mysteries are bought and sold
by purveyors of modern science

now that we have begun to celebrate almost
as we once celebrated a sure thing

I confess to surrendering my moments
to the velocity of goodbye

to spending my satchel of hours
on swampland miles from the nearest highway

now that language has argued itself
into obsolescence

can we borrow happiness
from the color yellow

from pollen dust
and taxi streak

from that dress you wore
when you said there was nothing underneath

now that we no longer believe
that the sky's milk won't sour

it's always five o'clock again
always truck brake grind on the overpass again

and we have watched things collide
have watched things fall on the tv

and we no longer walk as far as the corner
without telephoning our whereabouts to somebody

things collided and fell
but it wasn't just on the tv

these empty sky days
these things having fallen days

surrounded as we are by it

and wasn't that us
in a photograph of us

weren't we dancing
weren't we lip to lip

wasn't that us
on the roof dancing

in the light the skyscrapers tossed off
as if it were easy

as if it is ever easy.

~ . ~

Like Whispers Turning
Mary Leonard

What is underneath
          sometimes rises to the surface
They say that, in heavy rains
          at Treblinka
bone shards rise with the clover
and in the summer, hornets make their nests
          close to the ground
as if to protect the dead
          from scavengers.
Learn from history, they say,
but, have we ever? And so why
          go under,
                    print, proclaim and analyze?
Why read The Nation Challenged
     when the challenge is underground.
Could this be
          our Special Forces
                    riding across Afghanistan,
so handsome in flowing robes and turbans?
          And where did they learn the art of cavalry?
Should I be proud
          that we have bridged the cultural gap?
Every image sits with me
          like whispers turning into kisses,
I stop this, erase my cynicism,
          blot out my personal notes,
                    become tidy,
take control,
          but I don't can't, even knowing
                    at any moment I could be blown out
a window, diving
          toward erasures I don't own.
My fears rise to the surface,
          even if I want to bury them,
                    or delete like e-mails,
not wanting them to become something more,
          twenty-first century flint,
                    debitage of my place and time.
Bury them. Sprinkle hornets' nests to hiss
          at those who might hold history
                    in their hands,
Smoothing it over, saying,
          we could learn from this.

~ . ~

Assault on the Second Wall
Mervyn Taylor

In terms of war, there is no second wall,
But the mind second guesses itself
Near the entrance, where a mine
Has fallen into a child's hands.

And she plays and sings, and calls
Her mother's name before the explosion
Rocks the blue building and sends
The soldiers flying, guns drawn

Towards the southern end of town
Where the rumors have their enemies
Sighted since Wednesday. Then
One of them, exhausted by fear, leaning

Against the samaan in the center
Of the square, sees the little yellow ball
Of cloth, hair and blood a woman holds
Up, like an offering, and wearily

He straightens, waving to his compatriots.
Slowly they re-enter their squad room
And slip their rifles to the floor, quietly,
And close their eyes against the desert grit.

Point-Blank | Point of Honor | Disrepair | Order | Point Resumed