Between the Lines


That region of lower Manhattan
had some things going on, remember,
so this was no simple move-along order,
night-sticking a sleeping vagabond’s
bare and gnarled feet. We’re talking
more than 100 residents, and employees
—thousands and thousands worked there—
in luncheonettes and haberdasheries,
flower shops, clothing stores, and grocers
      Cantor the Cabinet King
      Courtesy Sandwich Shop
      Oscar Nadel of Oscar’s
                  Radio Shop and
                  Oscar’s Radio & TV:
                        This is not some foreign country
                        where the government
                        can come in and just take
                        a man’s business.
Businessmen were offered a flat rate
—mortgaged to the limit? booming income?
got the business from your father
more than forty years ago?— $3000 bucks,
no more, no less. Take it or take it.
Still, in America, one man gets
one voice which he can shout into a bullhorn
because he’s got rights. Unless,

unless, he runs into eminent domain
where the individual loses to the “project”
where private property surrenders
to enterprises of “public purpose”
and where homeowners, landowners,
and business owners
rarely conquer highways, bridges,
or ports:
                  ‘the public
                  importance of
                  slum clearance
                  even     aesthetic

                  NY Court of Appeals Judge
                  Adrian Burke put it straight

                  ‘public purpose

And in a jet age
a port needs no water
to create displacement.

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 ‘The lines between military & civilian
      targets, between military and civilian
populations had been erased

during the aerial bombings of WWII.
      This is not what is new
since September 11.

The bombings of London by the Nazis
      and of Dresden,
Hiroshima, and Nagasaki by the Allies

dramatically crossed the line
      between military & civilian targets
in modern war.

[This is not what is new since September 11.]

The Algerian Resistance against the French
      aimed at destroying
the normalcy of everyday life

by blowing up French residents of Algiers
      in cafés, markets, and train stations
and reminding them not only

they were the enemy
      but there could be no “normal life”
 [What is new since September 11?]

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Taped to mailboxes, curved around lamp posts,
slapped up on any flat wall or window,
even from cars parked long enough,

the faces, the lost faces, disappeared
and longed for, the faces stared out at the as-yet-
still-live ones who passed the passing.

Remember how candles pooled and flickered
under the flowers lacing chain link
and how on the fence was a photograph:

a white-veiled woman enwrapped
by her tuxedoed groom, and you couldn’t
you couldn’t tell who was missing and who

who was longing, so you’d read the name
and learn she worked for Cantnor
up on the 90-whatever floor. Maybe the husband

and their two little girls photocopied
these sheets and, stapler and tape in hand,
walked street after street, glad

at least to be active in that awful waiting,
knowing and not wanting to know.
This was in the days we lined up for hours

to donate blood, remember? Blood
that was never needed. Of course
you don’t. —We’re ghosts talking to ghosts.
Before they footnote it, Cantor Fitzgerald,
a bond-trading firm, lost 700 out of 1000 employees.
Its offices occupied floors 101

through 105 of the North Tower,
the one struck first by American
Flight 11 at 8:45 am.

Poetry pours out through the net
of explanation. Have you seen
Amy O’Doherty? Adriane Scibotta?

Chris Kirby, 152lbs, blue eyes, a carpenter…
Tonyell McDay, ruby ring on left pinky finger…
Colleen Supinski, large blue eyes…

Francis (goes by Frank or Fran)—
two tattoos: one a Shamrock
in Irish flag colors over “Mom”

in the middle of his left arm,
and on his right
the kanji for “Mother.”

“Displacement” is one of the poems in Edward A. Dougherty’s manuscript about the World Trade Center, entitled 10048, which was the zip code for the Twin Towers. He is the author of 5 chapbooks and 2 full collections of poems, including Pilgrimage to a Gingko Tree, from his time as a volunteer at a peace center in Hiroshima.