W is for World Trade Center

| April 25, 2014

I wrote this poem shortly after 9/11 for a workshop in my Masters in Creative Writing program at NYU. The year before, I had attended a three day conference in Tower 1 and on another occasion gone to a wine tasting at Windows on the World. I was haunted by so many vignettes of memory that made their way into a poem. For example, I tried to capture the elevator music that played constantly in the elevators. The poem was featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on the one year anniversary of 9/11. To me, it is never finished and is in a constant state of editing.

FROM THE TOWERS

I remember bathroom stalls the color of illuminated bone.
Cork ceilings embroidered in neon.

I remember mazes of scrubbed hallways;
some had brand new twin pay phones at the end.

I remember windows so narrow you’d have to walk out sideways.
And radiators crouching below them.

You’d have to press your face against the glass, as through a diver’s mask,
to gaze at the reef below. The dizzying beauty of your own city.

Downstairs, in the expensive cafeteria, I remember there was a man
with a boy’s face, eating a wet donut all alone. And beside him,

two others by a shelf of Jell-O, preparing and preparing graphs and phrases,
the algebra of something that seemed so important.

I remember the spread hand of a fat woman pushing a revolving door
and a sort of fierce kindness in her eyes.

I remember helixes of men and women passing each other on escalators,
whole villages rising and rushing from the tunnels, pulled up some place.

But mostly, the elevators, how full they’d get in the morning. The strange
canned music inside them always.

And there was the swish of a frail woman’s sleeve as she sailed through the closing doors, the unbroken glasses windowing a man’s face.

And another, in the evening, silver-haired and handsome,
rushing back in from the rain.

He must have been going back for something.
I remember just how he went, how he crossed the white marble lobby.

How he dragged the half-swimming reflection of his suit, the dark ointment of him, which now is the color of heaven maybe.

– Mia C. Anderson