The Breaking of the Vessels

Author | Martin Golan

For Howard

I like to think you were contemplating God
in one form or another
when the first plane hit
At your desk on the 103rd floor
a smile on your lips
You were strolling the orchard
we wandered together
The land of Kabbalah and Zohar and wonder
seeing the light
so bright
that next to it
what we know as light
is darkness

I watched as you splashed science
on a class of Christians and agnostics and Buddhists and Jews
(We chuckled often at the odd combinations)
The “breaking of the vessels” that created the universe
was the Big Bang, you said
before you got lost in the dreams of angels
in a world created
not with thunderbolts or fire
or with jealousy or rage
but with words
with God just

You listened harder than all of us
Even science could not save you

In the ruins of the towers
we walked through daily
you would have found letters
and added them up to find meaning
the Gematria of the mystics
revealed on Church Street
Reason in ashes
Your body became a Hebrew letter
in the burning village of our day

All of it no less unreal than your wife seeing on TV
the tower you worked in dissolve into dust
To hope you died quickly, did not fall
Awake and unhurt
Down 103 stories into smoke and debris
In the silence of terror
In the terror of hate
In the helplessness of love

At your memorial service
a cell phone rang
as your daughter gave a eulogy
A woman, astonished to discover that the phone was hers
stood, and scrambled, and dug it from her purse
as dozens stared, amused, relieved it wasn’t theirs
A stranger’s humiliation always safer
to witness than a daughter’s grief

But afterward, stuck in traffic, in the chaos of my city
in the madness of change
I braked to pay the toll
and I, who never weep, or follow anyone deep into the mysteries of faith
felt tears brimming
when I slid beyond the politics and the punditry
the speculating and prognosticating
to land on this simple, brutal fact:

You will never
brake for a toll
on the Jersey Turnpike

About the Author | Martin Golan’s poetry has appeared in many publications, including “Poet Lore,” “The Pedestal. Magazine,” and “The Dos Passos Review.” He’s also published a novel, “My Wife’s Last Lover,” and a collection of short stories, “Where Things Are When You Lose Them.” In addition, he was associate editor of the poetry magazine Bitterroot for several years.

His book of poetry, “A Note of Consolation for Lucia Joyce,” will be published early next year.

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