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Thursday, September 15, 2011


by Aaron Gillego

What I remember most is not the smoke
billowing and enveloping downtown
as I looked left across the Harlem River
through the window of the bus heading
to school.  At that point on the Major Deegan
we were just passing Yankee Stadium
and from that elevation I could see Lower
Manhattan: dark plume swallowing the bright
morning sky, twin smoke stacks incinerating lives.

It's not the old man whom, as I think back
to earlier that morning, I dismissed as a crazy
bum.  I hadn't woken up yet.  He had mumbled
words I only later deciphered: "plane hit World
Trade."  This was  on 86th and 3rd Where I waited
for the nine o'clock Bx1 Express.  It hadn't struck
me as odd that I would wave to a stream of fire
trucks careening southbound in the wrong direction.

It's not the gasping cry of my friend, who then clasped
my hand tighter as we stood watching the television
when the towers collapsed.  We were in the dining hall,
not eating our breakfast, letting our coffee get cold.

It's not the vigils that followed, the thousands
of candles melting tears, as if crying for those who held
them, the countless strangers who'd gathered at Union Square
that first night after: each one with a desperate want
to do something, to console, to commiserate--all
utterly helpless except to buy an American flag
and light a candle.  And all the Missing posters
proliferating on every blank wall throughout the city...

It's not the image of autumn leaves falling like silver
confetti.  It's not the metallic smell of New York
that entire month.  September usually brings a crisp air,
redolent of changing foliage.  But this time around it was stale,
like that which lingers after an extinguished fire
or the smell of dead and dampened leaves
raked after they've fallen and summer has ended.

It's not the quiet that pervaded the city--a strange
noise to us all; the silence in the subways,
a peaceful surrender to a changed world.

Aaron Gillego pursued his MFA in Poetry at the University of Miami.  He received his B.A. in English at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.  He resides in Miami, FL, where he has been teaching high school Language Arts for 9 years.  He's been published by The Advocate and has contributed several poems to The New Verse News.