We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I was 24 then, I lived in Arizona, and I wrote emails for Charles Schwab. (That was my day job. I also wrote poetry in my MFA program.) Watching a 9/11 documentary today made me think of a few of the poems I wrote back then. I never published them, and they feel like artifacts now. But maybe it’s a good time to share one of them. This is a poem in 2 columns. I originally called it The Emotional Life of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (…leave me alone, it was grad school.)
In 2000 I learn about the “dot-com bubble,” when it bursts.
I work in an office where we watch the Dow drop over 500 points in a day.
The hardest hit, it seems, are personal retirement accounts.
The first round of layoffs begin.
The Twin Towers fall in September of 2001. Among the dead
are hundreds of bond traders with the firm Cantor Fitzerald, most of them only about 25. The CEO weeps on television in an interview with Larry King–he says
“They were just babies.”
An inside joke is whispered around the office in response to the questions we get from our wealthiest clients, frantic, demanding to know if their assets are safe.
“Oh, sorry. Your assets were in Tower One” we say.
Layoffs continue in conjunction with another wave Of panic-selling. We learn that the Enron executives
Sell their shares many months in advance of negative reports.
The market fluctuates in tandem, as the war begins, With new color-coded alert levels.
On the first full day of war, the Dow gains 200 points.
With over 200 years from risk management to banking, U.S. government orders are never to wait; they are first In line to capital seizure and citizen want–
Multiple accounts are sold as a block and journaled away.
Is this correct?
Would you like me to place this order?
3,000 or so people are a window.
Watching clouds means the rain may or may not fall.
I learned in a children’s book that you could stretch a sheet of plastic over a hole in the sand and pray for dew.
I don’t wish, anymore, to trade places with anyone, but sometimes
in my daydreams I escape my captors, heroically firing a single shot Into the brain of my enemy.
When you’re a child you say, someday, you’ll take all their money.
You’ll build an escape hatch on the top floor, With a fireman’s pole and a circular staircase.
You fill 5 pages with plans for this magical house.
You grow up, and as you grow you lose things–a thumbnail To the bread knife, a fiancée or a used car.
You say, I know where to go for it, I can survive only spending a third of what they give me.
The rest seems to vanish (like you) into big gray buildings.
The scraps of paper that float down, can they be read like palms?
I tried to keep the numbers clear, on both sides of the ledger,
but there wasn’t any way out but underground.
You may have money in your pocket, but you sit in the waiting room, like all the others.
You remember watching CNN in a different city, waking groggy, with the feeling you were back in Tulsa, twisters on the horizon.
You look up at television in the corner And wonder why they keep showing that open grave.