A lost World Trade Center poem

December 7th, 2005 Comments Off

I recently found a poem I had written years and years ago, in July 1992, which I had absolutely, totally forgotten about. I wrote it in an undergraduate creative writing course with the astounding poet James Reiss. I’m not sure why, but Reiss generally liked my stuff. For an undergrad, I guess it was okay material. A few weeks after the class was over I was walking down the muggy streets of Oxford, Ohio, and Reiss drove by, shouting out to me, “There goes the Tungsten Wunderkind!”

Tungsten, now that I’m remembering, was one of my favorite words that summer, and Reiss knew it. The “wunderkind” was Reiss’s idea. For a while after that I fancied myself the Tungsten Wunderkind. Long after most young men give up the idea of becoming rock stars I harbored fantasies that Tungsten Wunderkind would be a great name for my first band. The one that would go on to fill stadiums around the globe, stop world hunger, meet the Pope.

How embarrasing.

But this poem here, the one I discovered in an brittle plastic binder in the back of a closet, Reiss didn’t like. I remember that too, now. Never mind the erratic meter and graceless lines, it was the closing stanza that irked Reiss. Too much like the end of Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston staring aghast at the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. Reiss pointed out the unintentional allusion, and I thought it was a compliment at the time.

I think I see now what Reiss was getting at.

Yet after September 11, 2001, the poem seems different. Definitely not better, definitely not redeemed, just different. I don’t feel prescient so much as in sync with Hollywood’s darkest fantasies. It’s still a bush league poem, but it’s a bush league world we’re living in.

     in my dreams…

i raze the World Trade Center
down to its cornerstones.

first i heap the ticker tape
(IBM up five and a quarter,
DuPont down two and a half)
into a haystack.

then i douse the pile with
gasoline and light a whole
book of matches from TGI
Fridays and toss it in.

finally i

awake and leave behind
twin shivering spines
hunched over the harbor.

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