On the bus two women argue about whether Rudy Giuliani had to kneel before the Queen of England when he was knighted. One says she is sure he had to. They all had to, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Mick Jagger. They all had to. The other one says that if Giuliani did they would have seen it on television. We would have seen him do it. I am telling you we would have seen it happen.
When my stop arrives I am still considering Giuliani as nobility. It is difficult to separate him out from the extremes connected to the city over the years of his mayorship. Still, a day after the attack on the World Trade Center a reporter asked him to estimate the number of dead. His reply—More than we can bear—caused me to turn and look at him as if for the first time. It is true that we carry the idea of us along with us. And then there are three thousand of us dead and it is incomprehensible and ungraspable. Physically and emotionally we cannot bear it, should in fact never have this capacity. So when the number is released it is a sieve that cannot hold the loss of us, the loss Giuliani recognized and answered for.
Wallace Stevens wrote that "the peculiarity of the imagination is nobility . . . nobility which is our spiritual height and depth; and while I know how difficult it is to express it, nevertheless I am bound to give a sense of it. Nothing could be more evasive and inaccessible. Nothing distorts itself and seeks disguise more quickly. There is a shame of disclosing it and in its definite presentation a horror of it. But there it is."
Sir Giuliani kneeling. It was apparently not something to be seen on television, but rather a moment to be heard and experienced; a moment that allowed his imagination’s encounter with death to kneel under the weight of the real.
Excerpt from Don't Let Me Be Lonely, Copyright © 2004 by Claudia Rankine. Used by permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org
After Mahmoud Darwish
And they searched her voice, heard the lurch of a bus into the deep muck of a field. And they searched the bus, saw the guts of its vinyl seats. And they searched the guts, smelled the steel springs rusting. And they searched the rust, tasted nothing but the tips of their thumbs. And touching their thumbs to their lips they said well in another three years.
Copyright © 2011 by Idra Novey. Used with permission of the author.
The world does not need words. It articulates itself in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted. The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being. The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken. And one word transforms it into something less or other-- illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert. Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues. Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica. To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper-- metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember. The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds, painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it. The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always-- greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.
Copyright © 2001 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted from Interrogations at Noon with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.