Do you remember crawling under the table
giggling as the airplane passed overhead,
its boom rocking our plastic fort?
You looked up, eyes wide, mouth drawn thin.
When the windows stopped shaking, I said
we had to stay under the table
because that was the game and I was the oldest.
The same game mom suggested when
she picked me up early from school, other kids
threw me that look when my name came
over the intercom. In the office, secretaries crowded
around a tiny TV while the principal mumbled something
to mom about arriving just in time. Schools are going on lockdown.
Play with your brother, mom said on the drive home,
I need to take care of some things.
We got bored when nothing happened and
wormed ourselves out on bellies and elbows,
carpet-burning our skin.
We asked to go pick crab apples.
The TV was silent. Mom watched, frowned,
said it wasn’t time to go outside.
There is a scar left behind since rocks
have finished bleeding. On the loop around Washington Boulevard
I press my nose to the glass and let white fog burrow the pane
as Enya’s voice and distorted messages of the dead mingle
during the commercial break.
People continued to go back in to save data, they explain,
They ran in again and again.
We pull into the lot next to the mall.
String lights, ice rinks, and missiles replace late summer fireflies.
Beyond the bridge I see the charred
ruin smoldering, the wreckage covered by a Band-Aid tarp.
The Christmas broadcast pauses; a radio announcer
thanks our troops before I’ll Be Home for Christmas begins.
The ice is rough beneath my blades, the pick snagging
on scattered debris and deep gouges. I haven’t been to the rink
since the crash. I glide through motions mechanically, treading
without taking off.
Three months later, fireflies start hiding away for the season,
their lights dimming. I find unlucky corpses
on the sidewalk. An airplane passes over, heading towards Reagan.
I lean back on the bristled crab grass and watch.
We picnic near the airport. I cover my ears, tiny
bones thundering from the vibration of displaced air.
You start crying. I cup your ears, draw you close
into my chest, humming a familiar song to soothe.
When an airplane passes over, we play a game because
I am the oldest.