Three days after 9/11,
I sit on my porch steps,
holding a candle,
looking at an unusually empty street.
My daughter in Kansas City suggested this,
I don’t quite know why.
The sunset is beautiful. The weather
has been clear and pleasant:
a thoughtful calm,
Next week we will observe Rosh Hashana,
when the book that reads itself is opened,
the book inscribed with all our past deeds,
the book in which our fates are written:
... “who by fire” ...
So tonight I play
with fire, make the flames dance,
and watch the wax drip
onto the sidewalk.
So what difference does it make
how many dead, from one fell deed?
Every second someone dies somewhere.
These numbers do not add up.
There is no equation.
Do these numbers give comfort to a survivor?
Or will it feel better years later
to say that a loved one died
in an event horrible and historic?
And for those of us who knew
no one in the World Trade Center,
or in the Pentagon or on one of the four planes --
why the tears?
If someone collected vignettes
of the last five automotive fatalities,
other than family and friends,
Do we cry for the parents who will bury children,
and try to explain to grandchildren.
“War violates the natural order, said Homer.
In peacetime sons bury fathers;
In wartime fathers bury sons.”
Some families’ breadwinners disappeared,
with no identifiable piece remaining.
Will the insurance company, too, leave survivors on hold?
Some vanished workers were undocumented aliens, 'illegals'.
They came to New York with nothing but hopes.
Now their kin have not even a piece of paper
to prove how and where they were lost.
Buddhists tell of Avalokiteshvara, who cared
about everyone. One day a demon taunted him,
“So you care about this one?
And that one?
And these three?
And those five?
And these hundreds?”
Finally Avalokiteshvara burst into a million pieces.
So the Heart Sutra gives us the mantra:
“Peace. Gone, gone, all is gone. All is completely gone.
Praise to the one who goes.”
No! It’s too much!
But now I am thinking,
Clear the mind.
Focus on the candle,
Concentrate on breathing.
“Blessed art thou, oh Lord our God,
Ruler of the universe,
who has permitted us
to reach this season.”
Breathe in ...
(The dust that rose in New York
will reach Pittsburgh soon enough.)
Breathe out ..
Breathe in ...
Breathe out …
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