The obvious

If I have one major talent, I like to tell people, it is in pointing out the obvious. After the Oklahoma City bombing, I said to anyone who would listen: Of course fertilizer is a deadly weapon. Imagine a million bombs like this going off every day in the once-living soils of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, India, the Philippines. How inconvenient that McVeigh and Nichols appeared so white & ordinary, so like us.

The Oklahoma City Memorial: School is out, but still we come to call roll. This could be anywhere. The even ranks of identical chairs bear testimony to the discipline, rectitude and undiscriminating universality of the bomb’s unholy curriculum.

September 11, 2001: For a week afterwards, with every airport shut down, the skies over North America were the clearest they’d been in decades. Our ears grew almost accustomed to the silence. In the woods & in the fields we could hear small things: a snail chewing on a leaf, mud cracking as it dried, the necks of sunflowers creaking in unison as the sun made its unrepeatable way across their sky.

London bombings: The panic passed quickly, survivors said. They began talking, analyzing, coordinating. Those who could walk, walked: burned or bloody, dark with soot, missing an eye or an eardrum, perhaps, but proceeding with great deliberation up into the streets, which by that time had become virtually as foreign as they.

Vietnam Memorial: Solid stone comforts in a way no living tissue can. In the space between the engraved letters, our faces lack the depth & color we are accustomed to from ordinary mirrors. Maya Lin has the clearest mind of any American artist since John Cage. All along the black cliff-face one can see visitors approach, hesitate, extend a trembling hand, sometimes a forehead.

Leave a Reply