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

The Actress and the Aircraft Carrier

for Chastity Dotson

An Actress and an aircraft carrier –
two concepts Hollywood would understand.
See Hudson, Peck or Garner in command,
with Day, Monroe or Hepburn in the lace.
He humbled, she in control, the carrier
probably in shades of pink. It’s more teasing
than a test of war, with no weapon mightier
than a ring upon a finger.

Today’s Carrier refits in readiness
across the bay, a giant behemoth
of peace riding easy at her chains.
The Carl Vinson – Nimitz  Class – and capable
of anything at all.  Below her cold-war
decks glow two perpetual reactors
whose sleeping powers lie like cats.

Such great causes she has been about –
undertaker to Bin Laden’s burial at sea;
a rescue centre for disaster; delivering
protection for a world of energy and wealth.

No chance here for a young woman
to bring the navy or a nation to its knees.
But now you never know what anyone
may do, and in our happy hour bar
we meet an actress of our own. Young,
black, a new age pioneer of self-
determination, adventuring a world
of difference and change. She plays for roles
that make no stars, or writes her own.

An actor and an aircraft carrier. And here’s
a nation owning to the lives of both.
Between Seven Ages and the seven seas
both have futures to be made and settled.

My new screenplay has the ship afloat
upon the inner life, fighters overhead
emotions and their fickle flitter, dowsing
fires in bitter hearts and fissioned brains.
Our actress plays the captain of her soul,
rebukes the wind, turns swords and missiles
into pens and pageants for the final reel.

Somewhere a rainbow big enough where this
is not beyond. Sure in this big land
can come the greater good –  to be the master
of the human heart, the mistress of the seas.


See Chastity Dotson and the USS Carl Vinson