The Narrow Road to the Interior
Boerum Hill, September (2001)
Overtaking the crisp air, from across the Bay blow pages of documents and
ashes of terror.
The haze on an otherwise clear day reminds us of terror--won’t allow even a
daydream to swerve my mind away from the collapse.
A neighbor hoses down her small front garden: snap peas, zenias, morning
glory vines, grief. So much grief.
Trying to make a daughter’s lunch. Trying to find the other’s transit pass. Trying
to find a moment to collapse.
At a midnight clap of lightning, I sit bolt upright--more terror? Across the street
Firefighters scribble their names and social security numbers on their arms
before digging into the rubble for their comrades. Digging into ash for a pulse.
Where once I sold silk ties to brokers, now the floor is a makeshift morgue lined
with the burnt and shattered. This is as far as I allow imagination.
Once an afternoon for groceries, it is still an afternoon for groceries--and a fear
once called the bridge, the stray suitcase, the rental truck parked too long on the corner.
From the Promenade--where my daughter and I saw Tower Two collapse--we
look for something more than disbelief.
Taped to every lamp post on every corner are missing person photos--6,965 to
date. And after a thundershower, fresh fliers appear as if from nowhere.
Day eleven: after days of sun and two of rain, the soles of the rescue workers’
boots melt on the still-feverish metal wreckage.
Boerum Hill, March (2002)
At night, the tip of Manhattan offers a lavish glow--if only it weren’t from the 24-
hour recovery team.
Fathers and brothers who in a day’s work fight fires--will not give up searching
in the sub-zero wind for remains.
Soldiers in camou appear at the mouth of each tunnel--as if the world were
Nearly five months later: burying their lost husbands, some widows carry their
“Her husband’s remains”--as tentative buds appear this March, what does that
even mean, “remains”?
Five months after losing her husband, she buries him: at least the hard earth
Fathers and brothers sift dust in Fresh Kills for any remains. Here in Brooklyn,
spring arrives: dutch elm, dogwood, cherry. Immeasurably.
Perhaps we could call these tourists, cuing up in sub-zero weather, mourners.
Though they bear cameras and camcorders.
The beams of light memorializing the dead in this spring mist are not a tourist
attraction. Please. We see them every clear evening in Boerum Hill.
—Kimiko Hahn, Queens College
The Following two sequences are from the collection, The Narrow Road to the Interior (W.W. Norton, 2006).