Figuring Out the Downhill
She was stranded
at the side of the slope, blonde hair straining
from her cap, dark roots no anchor
in this white; a novice slope, but steep here
for a novice.
I thought I understood, being a novice too,
what it was to not bear
to aim your skis downhill one more time, not even
for the space of the turn,
but her children had gone ahead, she said–
Eyes like snow glistening only
face made up
to keep up,
and how’d she’d arranged this trip,
she said, wanting them to have
a good time–
My husband saying, you want some help?
and they’ll be okay, seeing how stranded
the woman’s face was
beneath her cap.
(He knew how I was too
skiing, you know, about speed
and letting go–)
They were from New Jersey, she said,
and that her husband
had been a trader, Cantor Fitzgerald–
And this being New York and late December 2002,
we did not breathe
for a while after she said that,
not even the fir trees breathed,
not even the leaveless deciduous–she was almost
in the woods–
only the other skiers whooshed
for they had not heard her, and she shuddered
as they swang past, and
all they found, she said, was his hand,
so lucky, truly, something, DNA,
And he said–my own husband–here,
reaching out his glove, and all you need
is just to get to the other side, and he gestured
towards the white blank space beside us–hardly even going down
at all, or just a little–
and can you do that?
While I just wanted
to sit and weep, only I’d
fallen once already, and knew how hard it was
to get up again
And anyway this story
is not about me–
He skied backwards slowly–
arms outstretched, you’re doing
While I made myself take the slope on my own,
knowing it was only for a few minutes,
which made it possible.
At the bottom, the incline tapered,
broadened, so that even a novice
could feel in control, so that even a novice
would feel like they might try it
again, the sun shining in that blinding expanse
I know I say everything is a draft poem, but this really is. But it’s April, so if you are trying to do a poem a day, you have to settle for what you do that day. I am so sorry not to return comments for a couple of days, but I expect to be considerably freer tomorrow. Thanks for your kindness.
Process notes: for non-New Yorkers–Cantor Fitzgerald was a trading/brokerage firm whose offices were in the World Trade Center. Many many of the employees at work on 9/11 died due to the location of the offices towards the top of the WTC.
Ps I am sorry for sentimentality of pic and possibly piece.