We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when an airplane flew into the north tower. I was at home, getting ready to go to work, just another ordinary day. Watching the events unfold on television was horrifying, but because I was so far away, it was impossible not to view them with a certain level of detachment. Thomas Flynn, a journalist living in New York, was there, and Bikeman is his account of that morning.
Bikeman is an extended, free-form poem, something not often published in today’s literature world. I’m not a poetry critic – I’ll freely admit that poetry is difficult for me. I often feel like I don’t “get it” – whatever the “it” is that the author is trying to convey. I didn’t have that lost feeling when I was reading Bikeman. It is beautifully, personally written, and I no longer feel detached from the events of September 11. I feel like I could have been there. Flynn doesn’t dwell on the minute details, but instead explores the immediate, visceral emotions of witnessing this most heartbreaking day. I literally could not put this short book down until I was finished, and I know it is not one I will soon forget.
In Flynn’s own words, he watches the first tower fall:
“The monster wall, airier than air itself, dances in broken parts,
waiting a moment. Then, amid the screaming
of those around me who realize
the tower is collapsing, I watch the chunks
gather up and begin to drop toward us.”
Walking through the ashes:
“We move from the place of the dead
In a dense cloud of sighs.
The fallen tower carries
flame-consumed human remains.
They are the ashes of ashes to ashes.”
“Amid a chorus of wailing eulogy,
the survivors move away.
I move with the living
yet I carry the dead,
carry them on a funeral march
beyond this September morning,
this forever September morning.”
I encourage you to find a copy of this small book, and take time to remember.
Reviewed by: Elizabeth