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.