All these years now, and it’s over, isn’t it,
the hardly sleeping, the dreams
that aren’t dreams, and the waking
weight of it? Yes, it’s over, long over.
Aren’t you glad you didn’t see them
in the flesh, the jumpers? Aren’t you glad
you didn’t take those calls, the we’re
dying up here calls? The I just have
time to say I love you calls?
When the first tower fell on your TV,
you said, Of course: How could I not
see that it would fall? But you couldn’t,
could you, see that it would fall?
And then you knew the other.
How many months was it that you fell
a thousand feet deafened by the sunlight
on the rooftops, on the river, by the
free howl of flying, or breathless in the
glittering, powdering tons of steel and glass,
of struts and desks and door frames,
dry wall, printers, fax machines, laptops,
coffee cups, fell in a gray storm of shredding,
shredding as you fell, separating, a cloud-roar
of black fire and a swarm of edges. Why
didn’t you take your daughter to school or
have another bagel somewhere along the way,
show up an hour late like the lucky ones?
Such a beautiful day. Clear enough
all down the East Coast for even
a poor pilot, orienting by the Pentagon’s
black plume, to come in low over
the Lincoln Memorial, just miss
the Washington Monument and vaporize
the Capitol dome. You whispered, It can’t
get worse than this. You knew, you know
it can always get worse than this.
Editor's note: Ron Smith, Poet Laureate of Virginia 2014-2016, is the author of four books of poetry, including "Its Ghostly Workshop" and the forthcoming "The Humility of the Brutes." He is writer-in-residence at St. Christopher's School in Richmond, as well as poetry editor for Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature.