I believe in God, the poet confesses. Don’t ask me why—maybe childhood programming, all the stories about Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Lott’s wife, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den—but I read Hitchens and agree with him, religion poisons everything. Something about the notion of purity which becomes another kind of obscenity urging the slaughter of anyone tainted with heresy, anyone different from the tribe, the clan, the faithful.
Today is the anniversary of the attack on the twin towers—Barbara Olsen riding the plane into the pentagon, though conspiracy theorists claim there was no plane hitting that building, Barbara Olsen being a fictional character who posed as a real person on CNN until it was time for her to disappear. How we came together that day, the talking heads on the sports talk shows this morning are saying almost nostalgically—not counting the thousands and thousands of Muslims Donald Trump saw dancing in the New Jersey streets. I saw them, he says. Others say they saw them too, he says, as if that were all the evidence needed.
I watched the towers collapse on television. I read how the people in New York were reaching out to help each other. There were no thousands dancing in the New Jersey streets. Still, the conjured image serves the purpose of the faithful. It doesn’t matter they weren’t there.
I talked to Audell that afternoon after the attack. He was worried that in our response, we would abandon liberty for the promise of security. Even then we knew, people who bothered to think it through. On a data bank somewhere is a list of every book I’ve bought in the last sixteen years or so. On a data bank somewhere is a recording of every cell phone call, every email—
It is cool this morning. On my walk by the river, a few leaves have begun to fall on the trail, crunching my steps. A pecan, still in its overcoat, drops from a tree and lands next to me. Some animal moves through the brush. The river is quiet, the water shallow. I am walking better. I’ve cut down on the Advil. Still, I can feel my nerves on edge under my skin. But here, next to the river, everything seems in balance, in this sliver of wild.
Back in the neighborhood a dog barks at me. Growls really. Its owner, a young mother walking the dog while her very young daughter rides a tiny bicycle, restrains it with the leash. The dog pulls against her as if to charge me if it could. I am carrying my walking poles, and for a moment consider removing the rubber tips from the ends of the pole.
The dog is only doing what is in its nature, but then so am I, ready to defend myself.
I turn the corner. A woman approaches me pushing a stroller. Nice day for a walk, she smiles.