Even I Was There
Whenever I remember the big news we all lived through,
it’s funny, because, was I always out-of-it, distracted?
Was I even there? Take, for example, the Challenger
Disaster. An assistant to a lesbian antiques restorer,
stoned, dribbling stripper across provincial furniture,
I watched it with her on a portable, black Panasonic:
that star-like burst, one long smoke strand arching
to the right, a white panache adorning empty sky.
After Diana Spencer died, I went out, like everybody,
to buy that embarrassing Elton John CD, “Goodbye,
England’s Rose,” a moving remake of his own oldie,
“Candle in the Wind.” I too attended to her bloody
Westminster Abbey funeral, arrested in the vanilla-scented
development of some dumb trick, walls pale, dull, no art
anywhere, no books. He had served in Desert Storm.
Did he see what I saw, Tuesday, September eleven,
one on one, twin crumbling towers, black clouds? No, no
one could possibly have heard Schubert's string quintet
as beautifully as I had heard it, just two days earlier,
at a concert in a penthouse, evening sun exploding
through the plate glass windows. As the youngish composer
decomposes from syphilis, his skeletal foundation quaking,
he scribbles pizzicato love notes to any pair of cellos, slow
steady heartbeats plunked under crying strings, his adagio
repeating in the echo chambers of my outer ears, my cancer-
eaten father’s croaking anger (“America is being attacked”)
preserved on the cassette I tugged from the answering
machine, soon after he died, and archive, mornings,
in my shirt front pocket, right atop my heart, beside
his hot pen. Wait, wait, readers, lit minors, history
majors, staring, past pale pages, glowing screens,
at ghostly faces, I'll strip, whistling in the mirror
to this bright paisley bathroom all about us, imitating
bird news everywhere, present, willing, able, ready.
A bright flat light blue public swimming pool a backdrop to his bust, his boom
box blasting some
dumb ditty, a tweaking twink, twitching
on a rainbow flag beach towel, twisting
a cock ring around his wrist, limp,
stops, does another, better, bump.
He prays, "Body, off me, please.
Or, at least, help other people
put on this green glow-stick, beaded
with ears, seashells, beating hearts."
Beyond the barbed wire fence, a closed, condemned
bedroom furniture warehouse, crumbling, remains,
its architecture rounded, oriental, vaguely,
seventies construction obviously shabby,
its name, half-visible on rusted metal, American
something, whitewash, blistered by the harsh
South Carolina sun, flaking, peeling away,
exposing sheet rock, random areas, gray
shapes resembling letters, characters,
diacritical, cursive, Arabic, Chinese.
Is that a bullet hole, a period? No, no
one shot out the sales office window,
a station wagon’s quick red reflection
crossing this glass sensor, trembling,
warm, carrying silhouettes, tiny
black seeds, via our imaginary,
home: a brand new polyester floral comforter, smooth, cool, under his knees,
a heavenly air conditioning wall unit slapping his death mask with icy sighs.