We Need You Now, Maya, Atta Sends a Tape from Paradise
WE NEED YOU NOW, MAYA
I wanted to make a cut in the earth.
You got it, Maya,
gut gash straight down the middle.
But who the fuck gave you the right
to cut up this crap called air?
The battle plan—black on blacker.
This ain't no Fourth of July victory parade,
no Boy Scout hump over the next
set of names.
Meet your own face on this death march.
Want a night burning Hell hootch?
You got it.
Want a flesh char flash dance refugee road?
You got it.
Want a white buddy fear
face down in some in VC paddy dark?
You got it. Don't mean nothing.
The leeches crawl up your ass, man.
They dig the darkness. Afraid,
too terrified to night patrol your own
inferno mind? OK, let's party,
let's boogie up the Mekong.
Names, names, names,
got 58,000 tracer whores to choose from,
glittery, sin-ugly beautiful, take your pick.
These babes never ever miss.
Fuck all wailing walls.
That's why I'm wailing.
That's how it heals.
Ground Zero Options
First, the penitente patch.
Crawl over the twisted I-beams,
jamknee the hero heap.
Breathe, Charlie, breathe.
Or maybe twin shafts,
driven down beyond our own darkness.
Story after story, voices, graves,
we'll sit around and listen.
You want to reach out to the countryside,
gather up whole farm fields, fill in the pit?
Goats, moo cows, camels and yaks?
The kids get first dibs on the milk.
Some of you prefer water,
something calm but changeable,
moonlike, an eye that sees back.
That's risky, though, moon crazy risky.
I like the Bamiyan Buddhas,
even if they're only two holograms.
Their laughter is so light and sexy,
tickling the back of my neck.
OUR GRIEF IS NOT A CALL FOR WAR
Plant up three thousand trees.
Plant down three thousand trees.
Plant up down three thousand
and nineteen trees.
That lattice work demon mask,
its picture in all the papers,
save that at least
and wear it.
What I Find
"Whatever it was that was there is gone." That's what
my friend Aisa says. I don't want to believe she's right. We
crowd in close on all four sides, stare down into the pit. Sheer
planes, almost plumb, a few workers, stragglers, dead quiet
dozer parked off to one side. It's a construction site waiting
to awaken. Thousands of square feet, a profitable vacancy.
If some martyr threw in a bomb, nothing would happen. Aisa
and I cross the street behind us, edge up to the doodad tables.
T-shirts, NYPD baseball caps, stacks of them, photos of a
tranquil moon tranquilizing two monster hulks, small globes
of glitter dust, trink-sprinkling down, blessing the heads and
shoulders of world trade forever. I start to fuss and fume.
Aisa rests her hand on my shoulder. "Look, they're only trying
to feed their families." We cross the street, follow the fence
around St. Mark's. It's festooned with sacred junk, the stuff
of our lives, trophies, anything that says, "We're still here,
nothing has changed, go round up the usual suspects." Christ
posters, a lei of origamic wings, the official casualty flag with
its 2792 name stars printed up softly in rows, folded victory case
banners from this high school or that, one fire fighter's helmet,
two white bed sheets to sign, magic markers, six, too many
colors available. Nobody died. Let's party. Let's have a parade.
Which normal flutter should we march behind? Where is my piece
of the pain, my close and personal revelation? After searching for
over two hours, here is what I find. The shut down Fulton Street
subway entrance, its cans and sacks, stinking of piss. The church-
yard iron fence, each arm of unknowable shape, black, cold, and
spiked. And the unkept, unseen graveyard behind it. "Aisa, let's
bow our heads to this dirt clod. Here before, during, and after
the towers. The only honest voice in town."
Dust Call Us River
Bring back the rubble,
not all of it, just a few truck loads,
dump it down there in some far corner
about the size of this half-hidden graveyard.
Sprinkle the burnt body dust that direction
and this. Those of us who want to, could leave
our cameras behind, tramp around in it,
crawl. Smudge hands, smear face,
death mask. Head down,
on all fours, we could finally be
what terrorists on all sides have wrought.
Like children, we will hump along, carrying
the rubble stones, tear a pile down
and heap it up somewhere else,
build up mountains,
In time, we will become
servants of the stones.
And the stones will accept us
by crumbling to dust in our hands.
We need you now, Maya. May your visions
give us this day an entrance, some shining black
marble that will reflect our faces as we pass
into our carrying. Walk with us a year
or two, then before you die, create
and build for us the exit, the mercy
water exit, for our children's sake
that they may rise out of this dust garden
as a new river, try life again.
ATTA SENDS A TAPE FROM PARADISE
Each word is an infant to itself. It's morning. We lift them
into the sun. This is how we say the first line. This is how we try to chant
the whole prayer. I admit that at first we wanted to kill you. You and you
and you. What is your word for it? Payback. Saladin's payback, one wing
of vengeance, one of terror, dive from the sky full gallop. What an unholy
mess! Infidel, infidel to our own kneeling. For months, we walked your streets,
arguing, imitating your cars and trucks. Corner to bank to doorstep, always we
would lose. Finally, we sank back into our prayer mats, relearned the Prophet's,
blessed be his name, first motion. Slanting into ourselves, helical, not forgiveness,
but a giving in. All this before that blue September sun reached out for us, and we
for our targets. In Arabic, the word for friend is sadiq. Sadiq, listen. It's better to
be the dust. You can't enter Paradise, boots on, tower tall, standing in a humvee
turret. We enter the merciful, the compassionate, the Divine Desert on our knees.
Bending forward and down,
we kiss what we would
become, infant low,
lullaby lonely, a catch
in the throat of Allah.