That day the sky seemed torn open like a letter.
All morning on the television bodies falling
in flames as steel and glass towers crumbled.
Unable to look any longer, my partner and I
wandered the late summer garden —
the kniphofia in tatters, a few pears
bruised and fallen near the birdbath,
our own city shining and intact in the distance,
but the sky eerily quiet, not a plane,
not a bird in sight.
Come evening we walked
to the neighborhood bistro. How oddly
soothing to watch the hostess guide us
to our favorite table, offer us menus, fill our glasses
with iced water — her movements calm and assured,
as if nothing astonishing had happened.
How the votive candle’s gentle flickering
lit my partner’s face, and the bread and the oil
the waiter brought seemed almost sacramental.
The makeshift stage doubling as storage
for table linens and crates of wine
created a kind of glorious rubble.
The amateur singer, nervous but beautiful
atop her high stool, nodded to the piano player
before beginning her first notes
cautiously, carefully. They played
a bluesy jazz from another era, mysterious
but familiar in its tumbling melody,
her smoky voice and his answering piano
the well-worn strands of an engagement
between lovers. As they seamlessly finished
each other’s lines I remembered
how that other couple stood
together on their fiery ledge —
how they turned to each other and
joined hands, before stepping off.
first appeared in Prairie Schooner, Winter 2004.