In memory of Margaret Goddard Holt
Like frozen soapsuds on a sea
of pavement, the blanket of snow
is now diminished. All that’s left
is the shape of a nerve spreading
over the sidewalk. Twinkling
with crystals, specked with black dirt,
it’s proof of the co-existence
of beauty and ugliness.
Two winters’ passings prolong
the separation, but still she is scorched
by the memory of that fire
which fed on the peace of the world,
consuming, among thousands,
her husband’s life, leaving
a charred ruin the shape of fear
now dismantled, but not in mind.
As solace against the horror
of her thoughts of his last thoughts,
she pictures, as if visible
in the space beyond the space
of the lost towers, a net
of cybermessages that went un-
answered, as if each word
of love were a light or sound
creating together a shimmer
of music, an illuminated web
that endures, inapprehensible
to us, but not to them – Spirits!
She longs to know what they know:
Are they simply in touch with the truth?
The way things really are, uncluttered
by personal encumbrances?
In those days as she searched
and searched and he wouldn’t
be found, she asked repeatedly
where was he -- beyond the dust
in the atmosphere that lingered
for months. Am I already a spirit,
too, for good or ill? she wondered,
unable to mark that transformation,
bridging the separation.
What she’d like most is to partake
of this life-after-death experience
while still alive, so she would know.
But life’s condition is ignorance.
She thinks how she might think his thought.
Those actual inklings of him. In her.
This is also her link, her claim to faith.
The beating of wings resounds
under the steeply pitched roof
of the New York Buddhist Church.
Pigeons roost under the rustic eaves,
and bird lime stains the conical hat
of the great bronze statue of
Shinran Shonin, gazing serenely
over Riverside Drive and the Hudson.
So he must have looked in the ruins
of Hiroshima, and ever before
and after, brought to New York
to symbolize lasting hope
for world peace: the merchant city
where that bomb was first conceived
has less reason and more need
of hope now, after the towers’ fall.
She sought out his tranquility
when her eyes confronted too much dust –
graves in the air, a smudge in the sky,
and the dust grown finer and finer,
washed into the earth and sea,
or suspended in our atmosphere.
After the explosion died away,
she heard bells pealing faintly,
as if they had always been there,
but were only rarely heard,
when the other noises ceased.