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

Feature Anthology:Points of the Circle

Point of Order

For Good, Their Occupants ~ Richard Levine | Prayer to Dead Friends ~ George Dickerson | Recovery ~ David Goldstein | I Want a Poem Out of This Living ~ Cathy McArthur | Down ~ Maureen Holm

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

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

Civilisation is hooped together, brought
Under a rule, under a semblance of peace
By manifold illusion;  . . .

—W. B. Yeats ("Meru" 1935)

. .
For Good, Their Occupants
Richard Levine

Yesterday, we mourned two buildings;
today, and for good, their occupants.

Tonight, I want to look in candlelit
faces streaming along a common avenue
of the heart, reflecting like moonlight
crystals on every body of water

from border to border, teeming
tides of witness, glowing
with the gallant grace of stars
setting themselves alive against
shadow and gathering dark.

Moving in sequined lines
against the grim, we will begin
to recover and remember what
we will never fill with hate:
the towering absence of victims.

Cup your hands about the flame
and hold it up that we may see.
Hold it up, friend.

Yesterday, we mourned two buildings;
today, and for good, their occupants.

~ . ~

Prayer to Dead Friends
George Dickerson

Hear us, you "truant" friends!
Shelter the prayers of those deserted here,
Left to wander the dust-ghosted floors,
The cenotaphs of our emptied rooms.
We have kept the faith of shared voyages,
Only to be stranded on archipelagoes—
On shores of endless afternoons without you.

How do we replace you?—
You whose names we gulp to utter.
We cannot recover our years together—
The hiccuping laughs, the embarrassed tears,
The little mysteries of our marriages,
The easy answers for our children's fears.
We cannot go to flea markets or malls
To shop for old friends, now buried under walls
Or burnt in flame that seared our common soul.

Then bless us. Keep watch over
The grumbled rubble of these steel-wracked days.
Use the wind to kiss our wrinkling cheeks.
Use the creak of weather to whisper, sometimes,
In the catacombs of our smoke-carved hearts,
That you understand: that we will remember.
Make a house finch peck our windows
To let us know you are somewhere… listening.
Let a chestnut fall so we can swear
Our hesitant feet are shuffling near you.

We dig and dig for a healing grace;
Fold us gently into your next embrace.

~ . ~

David Goldstein

What happened?
     Not waterfall, not bamboo grove, not cries of ice sellers.
What did you do?
     Hemorrhaged silence.
Where was the tower?
     It turned to rain and wept people.
When did help arrive?
     Nothing. I couldn't look up.
Where did you go?
      Where the missing stood.
What did you see there?
Why did you go?
     To see that.
How did you feel?
     Like nothing folded into itself.
No, how did you feel?
     Intimacy of ash.
Whom did you see?
      A line of people with bandaged fingers.
Did you know them?
     They were hyperbaric, stitched with astonishment.
Did you go to them? Did you speak?
     Each piece of knowledge is a flame seeking its martyr.
Did you go down to look?
     A belated lighter peeled back the river.
What had changed?
     Codfish still feed. Mudflies snare in the hanging linden.
     Someone's lover arrives in a dark cloud of hair.

~ . ~

I Want a Poem Out of This Living
(A David Ignatow Cento)
Cathy McArthur

I have something to tell you—
returned from my anonymous trip to the grocer;
my past is sitting in front of me, filled with itself.
There's a hole in the earth I'm afraid of;
all my life I've held books in my hands.

Are my clothes on fire? Is my hair burning?
In a dream I am lying in the mud on my back
and staring up into the sky.
How does one make a poem of this? I ask.
I have a tree to sit under.

One leaf left on a branch
not a sound of sadness or despair.
As I enter the theater, the play is going on.
I'm on a stair going down,
calm sky above.

What is it saying? Blue? That blue is enough?
Open a window, paint a wall,
cover the weather stains.
I work at a job and write poetry at night.
Nothing moves. What is the magic word?

A table, a leg of a chair—
I hold these with my eyes to keep from falling
I am looking for a past I can rely on
taking the wind in its hollows.
I stand on four corners, facing the four winds—

an enclosure upon emptiness.
I have made myself a lake for you
I'm grateful that you let me talk as much as this—
to pass through crowds like a crowd of oneself.

My poetry is for the night of empty buses
Searching for a lost coin,
now I understand myself running back
to the city, out of breath and happy.

~ . ~

Maureen Holm


Owatonna:  Dad dominates at trap.
Joel, 14, on the 10-meter platform—
toes, little tremor through the knees.
Pull! He jack-knifes into the quarry.
No splash to speak of.
No trophy, but proud.


Atlanta:  Six Flags.
Seated on a plank with niece Jennifer, 7,
a swing with a back that is none
a one-inch chain linking our laps
an auntie arm across her chest
as the wind as we ascend five storeys, ten and more
teetering, tilting until, 35,
I withdraw it, slowly, and cling, a child,
to the cable on my side,
unable to look over, to my shame
a thrall to the pull of headlong down.
'The parachute will open just in time,' she says.
'I know. I—.' Separately, we fall.


Moravia:  Day-trip picnic to reservoir,
bridge a 60-foot leap for three as we others gape…
Poised there before I miss him,
Jim in space, lake, classroom chair,
reading the poem, the hardest part,
he smiles, trying to gauge the wind,
stay rigid, guide, not flap, flip, spin,
was the water, chipped his tooth.

Ride the funicular up Petrin Hill for a terrace meal,
three walls dug in, the fourth proscenium to Vltá-
va green eyes, his. I see/saw, don't/didn't believe it
until I lick the point of impact he'll never let them fix.


Chicago:  Rubbish on the roof,
songwriters on removal crew:
Steve to Kevin to elevator car
heap to hand to heap, repeat
until full, then pulley to truck,
back up and down and up and—
suddenly he's so much debris,
pulse, then heartbeat,
on crutches and guitar.


Medusa:  Sumac tree, saw, creek.
Flat rock, pointed rock, hard
from thirteen feet;
as many weeks to mend
left eye, right wrist—fifth of July.
No jumping off bridge.
My stumps line the bank.


Five o'clock, top of the Empire State,
Ivo fingered the lacy wire fence
meant to deter the would-be dead.
'I could live here,' he said.

Height changes people.

Dinner uptown, the last before he left.
I secretly wrapped the flutes in napkins,
the champagne in a favorite towel.
We drove the cabbie. At ten to twelve,
no toast allowed on the observation deck.

By 9/11, oh,
all the John Doe's I'd met
—and 'heelots' who wept,
for Coop and Stanwyck,
a ledge, and falling snow.


The physics of balloons are as simple as love: —Lighter than air, you are buoyant. Archimedes figured that out. Air weighs about 28 grams per cubic foot (heaviest at ground level where it must support the weight of all above). Heat it to 100 degrees F. and you reduce the weight by 25%. (Consider the multiple: Balloons have to be huge to achieve lift-off in 7-gram increments.) Flame: Equalize the inner and outer pressure, while reducing inner molecular density, and you belong to the wind, not in it, but of it; no gust rushing about the face, no breeze through the hair, perfectly calm.


Fallen Rocket Zone.
Earth, water, air, flame.
Heat changes all but one.
Terrace open during summer season only.
In case of emergency, break glass.
In case of fire, use parachute.

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