20 Years after 9/11

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. 
 

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Poet to be Your Content Marketer

Pro: We care about language. A lot. We choose our words carefully, and they’ll convey – precisely – the message we want them to convey.

Con: We’ll sometimes spend 10 minutes pondering the denotation and connotation of a single word in a 1200 word article.

Pro: We’re great at synthesizing disparate pieces of information.

Con: We may make connections that no one asked for, and then write a blog about these connections that few will read.

Pro: We understand the constraints of formal verse and the fact that structural constraints often make writing better. So, fitting our prose into a scaffold of SEO best practices won’t be too difficult for us.

Con: We may enjoy constraints so much that we begin writing our web copy in iambic pentameter – just for fun.

Pro: We see life from a different perspective, and we’re sure to bring up interesting ideas in a brainstorming session.

Con: We see life from a different perspective, and we’re sure to bring up completely bonkers, irrelevant ideas in a brainstorming session.

Pro: We have an impeccable sense of timing in verse, though our sense of actual, recordable time can be… skewed.

Con: Logging time – what’s that? Wait, how much time did we spend on this task?

Pro: We write persona poems, so creating customer personas are a piece of cake.

Con: We may enjoy imagining the internal lives of customers a little TOO much.

Pro: As employees, we’re curious, imaginative, flexible, and dedicated to craft.

Con: If we stare off into space for minutes at a time, don’t be alarmed. We’ll come back to Earth soon.

Iceberg

The iceberg blinked
And the sailors squinted against the cold.
It couldn't be seen, with the sky so full of stars
And ice splinters making halos around the lamps.

Things seem to disappear,
Just so. You say you should have known,
But you were in the bracing wind or 
Sweat was dripping into your eyes
Or something. Whatever it was, it meant

That what happened next felt inevitable.
Felt like Zeus aiming his bolt at your heart.
Felt like time buckling 
Or your soul from a forgotten past life
Shoving you--go on, now. Go. 

Imaginary Wine Labels

Arm’s Length

2006

A drink that warms when held in the mouth.  Strawberry on the edges. Rounded center one would mistake for hollow—a globe.  Best on an empty stomach, with bread after the initial sips to soak up the coffee grounds one might imagine on the roof of the mouth. Recommended for people who like caves, pepper plants, and experimental films.

Singularity

2005

Earthy is too predictable a description for this mineral dormancy.  The aroma—a mixture of salt and wet paper—rises from a seed within the wine. Pairing with only the lightest-colored cheeses, this variety should be aged—not chilled.  Best with dried peaches.  Best after an afternoon that leaves the street wet with barely-noticeable pools of oil slick along the curb.

Staring Contest

2006

Although the first flavor is a jarring thickness, this wine lightens when consumed.  Notes of butterscotch and edamame.  Particularly good for pregnant women or for women who would like to become pregnant.  If pairing with chocolate or raspberries, have a glass of water nearby.  Best with pork.  Best on a morning after.

Fundamentalism

2007

Our darkest variety.  Too many berries to count.  We recommend drinking it with someone you don’t quite trust.  Best with crackers and oyster soup. Particularly memorable if consumed during a hurricane or blizzard.  The first flavor is a ruse—soda water.  Wait for the second and third flavors of velour and black cherry, respectively.

Changing Your Mind

2003

Initial flavor of lemon that hardens to green chile on the way down. Amber color as seen through pink-tinted sunglasses.  Not unlike raindrops on a Cholla cactus.  Caution:  Risk of explosion if heated.  Best when paired with potatoes and cream or anything that sticks in the throat.

The Good Life

2010

Aroma of candle wax and cucumber.  A taste that brings out lint on the tongue.  For relief—swallow.  Best with your most shocking acquaintances. Notes of antique wood carvings and motorcycle chrome.  It is only your imagination that detects a hint of lemonade.  This wine may be aged or consumed immediately.  In either case it will seem as though you’ve been drinking it for years.

2 Short Poems

Fragment

A half-moon caught in the trees, / the desert emptied of birds, / my father’s voice: “You don’t have / to call me back…” and this thing I’ve / imagined, tangling up / the burnt parts of two secrets–struck match / smell, the wind-tunnel / of a glass cave bringing the heat. / I was missing and I’m still missing.

Measure

As if you were reclining–sideways, big as god– / Lightening strikes the first hill, flames hopping to the next. / How it moves through your soul, the burnt spots making vulgar and strange anything green! / Don’t worry. When you’re marooned in a corner of your office wondering how the stones of the walls outside / Made it in–remember, there’s no insight like the rule of your hills compulsively burning.