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October 27, 2001

Pigeons in courtyard

Plane approaching National Airport

A man sits in his Ryder truck glances at children being brought to daycare smiles and writes down in his book collateral damage he crafts a statement he says this is what commanders do. A man his name is Timothy sits in his truck writes my commander your golden hair... Soon I will give you a building he writes, it will rise in the air like dust my Lord your golden hair shake it off it's just the ash from the enemy.

He tours Wal-Mart, smiles at an ATM camera, Portland Maine he gets up early walks through security sits down in first class no eye contact with 2B he just looks out the window. The man his name is Mohamed thinks be strong be strong it's only death you'll rise up in the air there you won't lie cramped. His watch beeps he gets up and slits 2B's throat kicks the door in to the cockpit he says it's time for your coffee would you like black milk or cream or sugar with that. He sits in the pilot's seat closes his eyes and thinks of the fair maiden your golden hair he thinks, soon, your golden hair, Malakah.

Her name is Ayesha she picks up her brother to pose for a photographer. It's not difficult, she says, he's small as a kitten she holds him up posing for Sebastião Salgado in a refugee camp in Pakistan she smiles both their heads are shaved she says we paint henna on the backs of lice we race them betting bread crumbs to see which one'll go faster. Across the border the Student leader steps outside and the stars are all sparkling he whistles his hounds to come close he whistles the women into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground. He shouts jab the earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are so blue jab your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing. You wanted to dance earlier didn't you.

Down south a man from Tikrit builds his palaces and he smiles half a million babies the reporter asks and Madeleine says it's worth it to get him the man from Tikrit he smiles and writes your ashen hair Shulamit you Jew someday I will see you in the ground.

Aboard Flight 175 a girl she's four years old her name is Juliana she asks Mom can you tell me what is happening? Ruth holds her and stroking her hair she prays oh please please please Lord. Never so much as a goddamn when the pantyhose runs please Lord just this once. A man walks by with the box-cutter knife swinging loosely by his side he half-turns and sneers shut up we're almost there, you'll rise then as smoke to the sky, you'll have a grave then in the clouds there you won't lie too cramped. I grant you a grave in the air he says there you won't lie cramped. He laughs my fair maiden in heaven your golden hair I know you wait for me. Soon he says soon as the plane tilts.

Ayesha holds her brother, Iskender she explains, after Alexander the Great who passed through here his soldiers had hair like the sun. A doctor walks by she wants to take Iskender away and Ayesha says he's fine he's only asleep, it's not like the bombs are falling on this side of the border. His golden hair from the Macedonian king who came by before the Russians, before her parents were even born. His hair short and prickly she says like a hedhehog we used to have those animals too but people ate them all and now we race lice. My brother, my doll she rocks by the wall your golden hair Iskender open your eyes and sing with me it's allowed here.

A man sits in his fire truck his name is Timothy his rubber boots have melted to his feet. He sits and writes my Lord your ashen hair, your golden hair my Lord, black milk of daybreak we drink you at night, we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening, we drink and we drink. They're all dead he writes we shoveled them out into the air and they drifted over the rivers to Jersey to Brooklyn and out beyond. My friends running up those stairs through the smoke calling out the floors. Five thousand graves in the clouds he writes, my friends there you won't lie cramped.

(Based on Death Fugue by Paul Celan)

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