Mudlark No. 55 (2014)

Torn Pages from a Ground Zero Notebook

One body a moment ago that was a person 
in a free-fall, free 
as in the discount that death is at breakneck speed,

though I was in the habit of saying to myself, 
he jumped—
“Jumped,” yes, but nothing like 
“the jump” in jumping-rope or going a little way up into the air 
to snatch a rebound, or by pretending one is Superman.

No, definitely not jumping, when all one had to do was climb out 

on a ledge 

and take 
a single 


One hundred stories up, their figures looked diminutive:
Stockbrokers, bond-traders, dealers in insurance, prep cooks from Windows 
of the World dicing celery and carrots. Men, women in kitchen aprons 
and impeccably tailored suits, poufy chefs’ hats like small inflated airbags. 

Pizza box, briefcase, Apple laptop and actual apples, blue and white Acropolis 
coffee cups, abandoned bicycles chained at the base of parking meters. 
Though mostly there are chains chained to nothing.

I’m accosted by the faces alluded to as missing
on chain-link fences, Plexiglas bus shelters, hospital facades, firehouse bricks. 

Missing only as in being missed—
the Faces of Love’s Most Wanted.

Faces marking life’s occasions: at the wedding, on the fishing trip, 
on honeymoons, at graduations, playing golf, riding horseback, 
tanning in the warm sand with a cold beer, skin aglow in coconut oil, 
though I prefer not to consider the role of oil in all of this. 

Muslim shopkeepers tape American flags to their storefront windows. 
Terrified Sikh cabbies hide their turbans beneath their beds in Jackson Heights.
Each life brought to concision with narrative detail: 
scars, birthmarks, dentures. 
One wife writes that she is searching for her husband 
who worked on the 84th floor. He has one glass eye. Blue, she typed. 

Beyond obstructing death, what I would ask for? 
A few weeks more without incessant honking horns, 
a permanent civility, fewer Americans gripped 
by the fate of contestants on Survivor.

The mayor pleads resume your “normal” lives,
watch baseball in the Bronx or Queens. 
Maybe witness a September leaping catch—antithesis of that day. 

Glass eye, gold tooth, a set of false teeth 
buried in the wreckage like the miniature jaw of a mastodon, 
white columns of an Acropolis cup littered among the modern ruins.
Pizza box top mostly disintegrated except for the word HOT intact 
with red serrated Armageddon flames. 

When Lorca walked Manhattan at night,
he saw each night window as a tombstone: 
row upon row upon skyward row of stacked tombstones. 
Among their obliterated tattoos: 
a dragon that immolated its proprietor’s body, 
strangulation by anaconda, 
death-dance to the rattle of the rattler, 
inaudible music raised by the flute-loving python until the owner 
is stupefied by poison. Those 
without a notion how their tattoos would carry them 
aloft on quivering Monarch wings, 
undulant on the lustrous hump of a porpoise.    

In late October I notice signs of progress:
Kindergarten boys on a downtown playground, 
not jumping, not falling, not crying for their nannies or mothers, 
but crashing toy airplanes into each other’s bodies.     

Is blinking passive or active? 

Do our eyelashes fall or jump or merely flutter 
like living moths, like fire-blown 

In March ’01 the towering twin Bamiyan Buddhas 
blasted into rubble. 

Taliban performance art?
I watch it over and over on YouTube. 

Peter Marcus | Closing Time, Tortilla Flats
Contents | Mudlark No. 55 (2014)