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Survivors—Found

We thought that they were gone—
we rarely saw them on our screens—
those everyday Americans
with workaday routines,

and the heroes standing ready—
not glamorous enough—
on days without a tragedy,
we clicked—and turned them off.

We only saw the cynics—
the dropouts, show-offs, snobs—
the right- and left- wing critics:
we saw that they were us. 

But with the wounds of Tuesday
when the smoke began to clear,
we rubbed away our stony gaze—
and watched them reappear:

the waitress in the tower,
the broker reading mail,
a pair of window washers,
filling up a final pail,

the husband's last "I love you"
from the last seat of a plane,
the tourist taking in a view 
no one would see again,

the fireman, his eyes ablaze
as he climbed the swaying stairs—
he knew someone might still be saved.
We wondered who it was. 

We glimpsed them through the rubble:
the ones who lost their lives,
the heroes' double  burials,
the ones now "left behind," 

the ones who rolled a sleeve up,
the ones in scrubs and masks,
the ones who lifted buckets
filled with stone and grief and ash:

some spoke a  different language—
still no one missed a phrase;
the soot had softened every face
of every shade and age—

"the greatest generation" ?—
we wondered where they'd gone—
they hadn't left directions
how to find our nation-home:

for thirty years we saw few signs,
but now in swirls of dust,
they were alive—they had survived—
we saw that they were us. 

We're All Ghosts Now

So says my friend who doesn’t know it now
But he’s been conscripted to say what I shouldn’t

Want anyone to say too soon, too suddenly, too many times
More than must be said. It’s a tall order, or as another friend says

A tall drink of water, otherwise: it’s plain & simple:
What anyone wants most of all.

Another friend tells me I’m easy and means something sweetly as when
One caves with the slightest shudder somehow thoroughly.

Another says what you say should be in a poem which means
Someone is taking for me the trouble to breathe, maybe fire.

Lucidity, quick and painlessly employed, kind of, as a kind nurse employs
Her rough pinch to be less strict than her needle’s as it settles into a vein

To take sufficient blood away somewhere to be deployed in centrifuge
To diagnose and otherwise and likewise and counterclockwise say, the way

Metaphor or blood can have the last word. In order to be sure of what the
Center is, everything has to spin away, I guess. Your words like a lost ghost

On a mission. I've never met a ghost who's not on a mission.
Why otherwise bother to be a ghost's ghost?

When we write to ghosts we write on stony water. One can skip a stone
In order to pretend to find ten thousands things.

Nearby is very close.
Nearby I take your words to water. My ghosts are growing restless.

Garden State Racetrack

When I was ten, the grandstand burned to the ground in the next town over. The black smoke galloped into the air right over our house, and ash the size of silver dollars began landing on the lawn. Later, when we heard what happened, we believed it was the smoke of horses, the smoke of our drunk fathers, the smoke of the money that would not feed us. I remember that the ash dissolved when I picked it up, that I had to scrub my hands twice to get rid of it. The following morning we would ride our bikes to make certain what had burned.