16 Acres and a Tree

Milton’s city of devils is now only noise and chaos,
but out of New Pandemonium comes the surprise
of peace. It’s here that capital and cunning reassured
itself, and brought two jets, piloted by amateurs –
demons, faith-fueled, hell-bent, prophet-bound.

Beneath the same sky we stand, look into the
same empty socket of God’s eye. Puzzled tourists,
pilgrims joined with others in wonder’s disbelief.
The air is free of blame, observes the same neutrality,
also supports the helo flights at 200 bucks a seat.

The two-acre bases of the absent towers stare
upwards. We all go there. Water pours into the
iris of a pool, then on into a void we cannot see.
Howie is our guide. He brings us here to listen.
An older, wiser man, the life he loved

he dedicated fighting fire, with fire still fights –
another voluntary role, as priest and visioneer.
Not present then, he lived to seek his friends,
to dig beyond the day of days, to play
lamenting pipes at funerals and wakes.

His future son-in-law survived. Most others died,
rescuing the hopeless – all cut off, brought down,
consumed. He tells it straight, shows us their names,
the cards that picture details of the scene.
He still keeps count of deaths that take

the people who survived to breathe again –
the choking dust that everything became as, in ten
seconds, steel, glass, concrete, plastic,
flesh and bone, came down. Grounded,
dust on dust. He fishes in his bag for images;

his memory for words to fix this day of life
he lives – and makes a modest thing of faith
and magic, creates a place that merely visiting
can’t bring. Here at what can almost not
be named because too many died, too much was

lost or even little learned, now gathers
a planned renewal of those promises and lives:
in lights that take the towers’ boxy shapes;
in streams that cascade and shatter in the deep
and darkened pools, a single stream for each

and every life; in names that get remembered,
on each birthday they no longer know, by single
rose, untouched; and light that bursts though windows,
staining bright a moment every year the second
that the towers fell. In any aftermath comes

cries for terrible redress – comes here a single
growing tree encouraged from the only shattered
trunk they found, and now a place of hope
and hunger, as all around rebuilds that city
in its acres, and its moneyed sharp-eyed dreams.

 

New York, March 2017