In my words, September 9 – 15

When I was a kid, September made me happy because I looked forward to school and the new beginning that meant. In September summer ended, but the jars of beans, peaches, tomatoes, grape jelly and pickled cucumbers that my mother had been canning made me feel safe and warm: I knew I wouldn’t starve and liked the idea that my family and I were just like the squirrels.

Gateway to September by Charles Burchfield.

Now September has 9/11 in it, a day that started out as the primary for the mayor of New York. I was going to vote for Fernando Ferrer, borough president of the Bronx. I did not like Mark Green, our public advocate, who was running neck and neck with him. Mark Green once wrote to me that he wouldn’t support La Plaza, the community park I was involved in saving; he supported the federal housing that my enemies wanted. Freddy Ferrer supported community gardens I learned when I’d attended a “Vote Parks” rally at Union Square. Unfortunately Ferrer wasn’t there, but someone read a letter he’d written saying how he had played in the city’s parks as a kid and how important it was to support them. Green joked that his name was Green, how could he not support parks? Then he signed a paper promising to give one percent of the city’s budget to the Parks Department when he became mayor. In a TV debate weeks later, Mark Green would deny that he had signed the petition. He’d say, “I never signed that.” Ferrer had signed and admitted it, which earned him a scathing editorial in the New York Times, criticizing him for supporting parks in a time of crisis. The Times supported Mark Green, the liar, weeks after, because on September the 11th the primary began, but never finished. Everything important wasn’t.

The Memorial Lights on September the 9th look like a flying saucer coming to take us up.

During the rainstorm on Thursday evening, I decided to go out for cereal and milk. Because it had been muggy, the windows were open on every landing; consequently all of the steps were rain swept and I slipped over them on my back from the fourth floor landing to the next. When I came to a stop, I was embarrassed and motioned to the guy coming up, dry cleaning dripping over his head, that I didn’t want him to help pick me up, slowly doing it myself, elbow on the last step, reaching for the railing, feeling for fissures and fractures as I stood and continued down the stairs pretending nothing hurt although a sharp pain was above my right hip and the knuckle on my numb left pinkie bled, but that was it. Dying it seemed, or almost dying anyway, there was something easy about it.

As long as we’re not dead, we have to figure out what to do first and what to do next. The apartment’s been a wreck I was in a malaise and it seemed could have cared less. Plastic bags and dirty plates were on the table next to empty takeout containers that had had lackluster chicken with broccoli in them, a playground for the mice. The thought of classes tomorrow got me cleaning in the kitchen, working from details to big picture, top to bottom over shelves and stove to vacuum the floor with a broad brush and then a small one along the walls and corners, mopping with soapy water first, second fresh, then vacuuming again, putting down the waiting rugs at last, watering the plants, one thing after the other, step after step, so easily done once you do it. Or is it? Well, I think it is simple enough but sometimes difficult to begin with. The apartment’s clean, tomorrow classes start. Let’s have faith in beginning.

The Memorial Lights on September the 9th taken from my apartment.

My mother’s sauerkraut is easy to make and it’s the season for it, a promising task, a future nourishment.

Sonnet 44

I hear Dad’s chainsaw echo down the field
cutting firewood for December’s stove. Her
knife in hand Mom chops the cabbage she’ll seal
in jars pouring boiling water over
it first with a tablespoon of sea salt.
Come November she’ll have her sauerkraut.
Summer yet, but going, and not the fault
of summer that it goes. I want to shout
“Don’t go!” but that won’t stop its going though and
feel it in my bones. I put away the
stuff that stays and pack the stuff that goes. A
wasp falls down along the windowpane and
curls up on the windowsill. Leaves burn
and swallows go before they can return.

Leave a Reply