for Clifford, 20 years after
Sitting in front of the TV, horrified, mesmerized,
thinking, I’m glad you’re not here to see this,
because, awful as it was, I was still wound up,
sometimes in a ball on the bed, after your unexpected
death six months earlier. And ever since, on this day,
as others mourn a national tragedy, my mind falls
to you, someone I grieved as the towers fell,
as word arrived of a plane crashed into a field in
Pennsylvania, another into the Pentagon. As images
appeared of people fleeing down staircases in the dark,
of firefighters going into the fray, never to return,
of stunned, ashen souls walking for miles and miles,
trying to get home, of those who never got home.
It’s how I feared your soul experienced those first
seconds, minutes, hours after your sudden departure.
Did you wander in the bardo, wondering what
had just happened, where you were, what came next?
Or were you plunged into nothingness, your
essence released into the air, bits of energy
sparking as you transformed into spirit?
If it sounds beautiful, perhaps it was.
Perhaps only those of us on the ground
called it tragedy. It’s not easy to go on believing
in an afterlife amid a horrific aftermath. But perhaps
those of you escaping bodies of ruined flesh
felt freed, even as you blasted off, leaving
the rest of us behind.
Who was Clifford? I lost a first cousin in one of the towers. He (Charles Wilson McGee) headed the maintenance department and got his crew to safety, then went back in to aid in rescues