Issue 7 – Dougherty

 

Edward Dougherty

Project Safe Flight

Two residents did not wish to leave:
One gazed from his penthouse window
from the top of a five-story office building
and loved his view of the river.

The other, who had escaped
the about-to-be- demolished pet shop,
holed up in a beam-nest, raiding
area fruit stands to survive. The monkey
managed to elude workmen for months.

             ll

     “After September 12
no one was found alive
      and the dogs

were distressed.
      It became necessary
to stage situations

      where ‘survivors’
were found by the dogs
      to keep up their morale.”

             ll

Following hour after exhausting hour,
they turned in flight, circling,
confused by lights not in the sky
but somehow in the sky nonetheless.
Drawn from millennial flyways, drawn
and disoriented, migrating birds
orbited two great hazards: light
and glass. Eventually,
some of these air travelers
descended into the city to land
and rest in trees and shrubs in planters.
Come dawn and the rising of the sun,
in the World Trade Center’s vast plaza,
they were trapped in a maze
of invisible walls and reflected shapes.
Birds battered against the same windows.
At the base of the towers, volunteers
recovered hundreds of bodies.

The project, then, was simple: webcams
trained on the long vertical walls revealed
which floors remained illuminated (and so
attractive) and which windows
proved most dangerous. Tenants
were eager to help and the Port Authority
netted the insides of the glass.
In this way, the death toll was diminished.

Years later, after the towers were gone,
beams of light towered into the now-
disorienting space, and inside these bright shafts
white specks glittered. It was hard,
one witness said, not to think of souls.
In the dark of the moon, flocks
followed the guidance of starlight,
but were bedazzled and caught up
in the brilliant memorial.

American Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles,
thrushes and warblers were released,
freed from their circling flight
when the lights were shut off.
Just twenty minutes, but a gift,
a dark gift for other lives, still on the wing.