“The Falling Man in Richard Drew's picture fell in the manner suggested by the photograph for only a fraction of a second, and then kept falling.” --Tom Junod, Esquire
Even great photographs,
especially great photographs,
especially this one, the perfectly posed
food service worker, knees bent
as if walking into the building, one
of the two calm, perfectly lined,
perfectly vertical buildings
behind him. His job awaits,
hours of chopping herbs,
dicing onions, mincing garlic
for the lunch rush. His hands
are behind his back because
he could not get the garlic smell
off of them yesterday, perhaps,
and he hates the smell of his job
when he isn’t at his job. He hates
the food, every dish reduced
to components. The sauce
a line of measuring cups—stock
and wine—and mise en place bowls
waiting to be mixed, pans to be
deglazed, seasonings to be added…
He hates being one of a part, never
knowing how much pepper, how long
until the cabernet has reduced enough,
even how the final thing tastes.
His knife is sharp as the focus on him
in this picture. Food lies, he thought,
smelling the garlic every night, every
morning on himself. The fish, the filet,
the first sear on a roast somewhere
far off, then lost to the cut onion’s burn.
You believe the lie. Turn the photo
over, see it the way it happened. He
isn’t walking. He is upside down, falling,
he could not stay this posed for 106
stories, falling. Believe he did.
He was diving, splitting the air,
graceful, praying, holy, alive.
Believe, because you do not see it here,
that stories above his feet
the buildings bellow not like smokestacks,
they will not fall. Believe, because
you do not see it here, the ground
is nowhere beneath him. He falls
forever, at peace, alive. Believe
the lie. Believe. Believe.
The Man at the Door
His footfalls on the other side,
barefoot soft or muffled by socks,
brush the tempo of a muted march.
He wears dark clothes, a turtleneck
folded underneath his chin. A soul
patch maybe, he fingers it and thinks.
Because when someone pauses
for too long, we think they must
be thinking. I slump in the chair
against the wall opposite the door.
Is it his door or mine? Is he in a hall
or another room? He is moving.
I will shuffle to the door. Please,
floorboards, do not creak. My hand
will hover at the knob. If it turns,
should I let it go or grab and wrench
it the other way? Its details: gold-shine
in the dark, polished, no visible screws
anchor it. And—the horror—no lock.