By Wu Tsao
Translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung
With modifications by Michelle Erica Green
You glow like a perfumed lamp
In the gathering shadows.
We play wine games
And recite each other's poems.
Then you sing 'Remembering South of the River'
With its heartbreaking verses. Then
We paint each other's beautiful eyebrows.
I want to possess you completely –
Your jade body
And your promised heart.
It is Spring.
Vast mists cover the Five Lakes.
My love, let me buy a red painted boat
And carry you away.
I meant to do work and answer mail and get all sorts of productive things done this morning before my kids' dentist appointments, Hebrew school and the usual evening craziness, but I ended up having brunch with an old friend with whom I haven't had a social visit since September 11, 2001. We have run into each other many times since then at synagogue and the food store and various other places, and commented that we really should get together, but we seem to have had some kind of distancing instinct -- a combination of superstition and not wanting to revisit all the feelings of that day. We both know that even though we were not best of friends and are unlikely ever to become so, we have an odd bond that is going to last for our entire lives. When we are 85 and our grandchildren ask us where we were on 9/11, we are immediately going to think of each other.
It's a very strange sort of bond to have with someone. We had met that morning at a coffee shop which apparently had no TV or radio, plus a very isolated clientele. We had both heard the reports before going in a little before 9 a.m. that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but the newscasters were still talking like it was pilot error. We spent two hours in a bubble of blissful ignorance, though ironically we argued about Israeli politics and then discussed our wills and potential custody of our children. It was probably the most heated discussion we ever had. Maybe on some level we guessed from the radio reports that the world was about to change. Ironically, her husband had worked for a company that had offices in the WTC which had laid him off only weeks before; it's conceivable that he could have been there that day had he not lost his job. Blessings come in strange forms sometimes.
Both of our husbands knew where we were that morning, but neither of our cell phones were working because the whole cellular network went down after the antenna collapsed and everyone started calling everyone else because it had become obvious that what was going on was an attack. My friend and I both left the coffee shop smiling, then got in our cars and discovered that the Pentagon had been hit, the schools had closed, our families had gotten our children home, and nothing was ever going to be the way it had been when we dropped our kids off at school that morning. Ironically, we met up today with another friend of hers -- the person with whom she'd been having brunch when the first sniper attacks occurred this fall. And they hadn't eaten together since, either. I think we were all a little nervous when we realized this, but maybe we've had our fill of karmic badness because, knock wood, it was a relatively peaceful lunch and afternoon.
My cable is down. It is taking me forever to do anything online and I can't access two of my accounts at all. Arrgh. Guess I won't be finishing tonight any of the stuff I didn't get to earlier.