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MARC PIETRZYKOWSKI

 

In the Train Station Watching Footage of a Plane Striking a Building

                               O mankind! We created you from a single pair of man and woman,
                               and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other...
                                                                                                                    --al-Qur'an 49:13

And so it is that certain tragedies
Seem to float in the sky
At arbitrary points in our field of vision:

The smoking shells of buildings, colorless

Streams of gas hissing from overturned tractor-trailers,

Rail cars crinkled amidst clumps of oak and pine––

Our own small horrors trail off them like tow ropes,

Wind-whipped cords braided from pink slips,

Falls from trees, a split lip beneath the jungle gym,

This or that parent embalmed and sleeping...
In the great spaces between each lies cancer, idolatry

And the instinct for joy that struggles to float free

From the mind and the eyes that fail to see;

Such tragedies are crumbs left on the trail

And the crows, the crows are everywhere...

 

I stand and watch mankind spread out
Along the platform, watch

Them board their trains, uncertain, afraid

Of becoming part of an unwanted history; oh, empires

Rise and fall, kingdoms cleave asunder and coalesce,

And still the mankind gathers together

Like rainwater pooling on a ledge. How I love

Your persistence, when there is so much to despise,

So much to withhold, such a constant
Baring of teeth; how remarkable
That we have not devoured ourselves completely...

 

And so, on a day when a far off speck
Grew immense and black in the sky,

On a day when our magistrate slunk fearfully

From trench to trench, a day that saw an island smoke,

When the dead in their numbers crowd the turnstiles

And the next world shudders from the weight of them

And the shudder is felt here, in our teeth, we turn

To one another and with a glance, apologize

For every wrong we have done, and all those

We'd imagined done to us. What we’ve found, this day,

Is something that makes us human,

And it leers at us from the blind heart of the forest,

And it waits with the patience of a seed,

And it thrives on tears as well as rainwater.