the healing muse

Volume 9, 2009

Manhattan Dust

Helen Papell

for Stephen

On my windowsill a screen
covered with gray and black dust
September 11 travelers
in fire-wind flight

from the World Trade terror
ninety blocks downtown.
I didn’t want to wash away
the dust, all that remained
of humans

trying to go home.
I left the screen on my windowsill
hoped the dust would fall away
drift to their families
north, south, somewhere

but since September 11
all over Manhattan people cough winds
of jet fuel, asbestos, unknown dust
that screamed into the lungs of men
who breathed without masks
in their hurry to rescue strangers.

When I began to cough
I dropped the screen into a sink.
My fingers would not press a water faucet
wash the dust into a sewer.
Shall I dig a grave in Riverside Park

next to a wild place where dandelions grow?
chant Kaddish, prayer for the dead,
ask the seeds tiny as dust
to carry the travelers home
east, west, everywhere?

Return to Table of Contents, Volume 9, 2009.

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