Small Plane, Blue Sky

A small plane, a prop, single engine, buzzed overhead this evening

While I was watering the garden in the heat before sunset

In this long summer drought. Smoke from the smoldering earth in the woods

Up by the quarries, drifted grey down our street in the breeze.

Another plane flew overhead once, in another September. That September with the clear blue skies

When Giuliani walked with a gas mask on, in the ash that ran down through the narrow streets.

He made himself the nation’s mayor as we rushed around him to help with the bodies.

In the evening, we walked past the black and purple Firehouse on Tenth street

And clapped our hands and some of us cried for the men and women

in their black boots who nodded back to us, and we all smelled the reek in their skin.

Soon then, on another blue day, we sat by the open window of a wine bar on Smith Street

Across the river from the copper-green statue holding a torch in the distance.

I drank a glass of Barolo, and she had a Chardonnay and the first three fighter jets flew lightning low

In close formation over the city. Why now, I thought, while we could still feel the greasy residue on our arms and in our noses and we thought about the incinerated bodies.

The Barolo was dry. And the next day I took the subway to work under the river with the copper-green statue to a tall building on 34th street near the post office and saw the troops,

Standing in twos and threes, in Penn station with their eyes fixed and their guns they held tight, muzzles pointed to the floor, fingers looped around triggers, and I looked away. We all did. Heads down, in the press of settling dread, afraid to look up.

I Saw Him Once Upon the Feathered Granite Rocks

I saw him once upon the feathered granite rocks. His leathered soles. Speckled sand mingled with lazy toes and strips

Of slippery, shreds of sea-green kelp. The Eastern Point boy,

Wore a wide-brimmed hat. His eyes in August shade. Blue all ‘round him. At the edge. On the furthest reach of sharp-edged stones,

Extended out into the water as a crook’d arm, flung out in the depths of sleep, and pointed toward the Avery Ledge and the Dry Salvages.

In the lowing sound the ebbing water makes,

I thought him a painter. Browned knees in short white pants. Though without the painter’s gear. His hand,

Raised to his chin. Looking East, gazing into the past. The backs of his calves warmed by the low arc of the western sky that brings the weather and unhurried, unfaltering, future.

Across his shoulders, a faded summer tunic. I think now it was. Though I was on the headlands above. Where the breeze was stronger. His fair hair, damp. Unruffled as

Swells, like harbor seals barely brushing by below the unbroken surface.

Gathering, then, he was, scooping up, reminiscences like shells,

Dropped from a height by grey-tipped gulls. Done with the crabs and mussels they’d excavated. Dead. Drying. Bleached,

Yesterday. Halcyon inferences,

In later scribbled lines: monuments to past disasters remembered only now, fondly.

The thought, when turned in a phrase, an incarnation of sorts,

An annunciation of wonder, of despair,

At what the sea will bring forth or hold back or tear and toss and polish.

Time, the sea monster, he thinks,

Rolls its back against the past, and erodes, consumes, in daily mouthfuls, the approaching years.

How could he not think this, as we who walk this path each day, at the edge of the sea,

And he, an august visitor,

Who would later think to write, how empty and desolate is the sea?

Only then, when he was young, alone upon the great, quarried granite stones, in the haste of August,

Licking ice cream drips off of his strawberried lips.