Sounds of the Resurrected Dead Man's Footsteps
By Marvin Bell

 

The dead man must deal with life.

If he became abstract (dead), if he became ideal (dead), now he must bathe in the

chalky light that is debris.

He must slosh through the blood that is the residue of height.

Where people jumped, their last act of will, choosing not to be smoke, there the

bodies linger and soak in.

Where the towers crumpled, there he must forge a testimonial.

What shall it say to the future about the past?

It must begin in the safety of expectations, in the routine alarm

and morning coffee.

It must carry the dead through tubes and over bridges onto the Island.

It must sing with the draft of the ferry and the hum of the tires.

It must ride the subway with the heroes of paychecks.

This, then, it must do lest we forget the joy of waking.

And what of the thousands?

What of the firemen who went inside for the last time, the police who stood

in the way, the pilots and crews forced to lift their hand against

their neighbor?

The killers in their certainty and the tenets of which they were certain,

what of them?

Can we stomach the worst of man and go on?

Don't we live on it, nature that rains good and evil, haven't we brought in the crops in

bad years and good?

Now I am the dead, all the dead, and you and you shall be all of them also.

We became them by absorption.

We must deal with life which is also death.

Love is not pretty.

 

9/11/01

Marvin Bell, Iowa's Poet Laureate, is The Flannery O'Conner Professor of Letters in the UI Writers' Workshop.

 

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