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Days After


Let me wear this floral print and hide in the bushes

with my face on fire. Permit me this incandescence.


It was my clocky hands that held the steering wheel

as the Jeep spun on beads of water; a dark tarmac.


Whose arms held the ugly girl when the first plane

descended? Look at the pimples on her face. Peel.


The buildings burst like a ballerina out of a fire-

place so sooty & skin ashed; the onyxlung, clumsy sac.


I built a hidden altar in the lightless back-corner

of my closet. It contains red alerts & bloody feathers.


The strangers said they could feel the blast. How it

dislodged their skin, ankle open as a hymnal. That song.


Hallelujah was not the word I thought of as my dummy

corpse left the stained glass of the car in flight.


Waxy were the wings of Icarus. Bomb was the trigger

that melted the teeth or them or everything but teeth.


What bone stays in the rubble? Amber preservatives,

honeycomb or hecatomb. Which oxen knew the hundred?


The television is learning me, giving me bullet points

which I adhere to my freckles with pushpins. Droplets.


Rain is what happened most days. Unexplainable thunder.

Today it is sunny. A man I see from my window, a man


beiged in suit and skinny tie is in a window like mine.

I don’t know what he’s looking at, but he’s laughing.

JD Scott

levelheaded: Days After


In post-9/11 USA, it’s difficult to read about “the first plane” and “buildings burst[ing]” without thinking of that fateful day in our nation’s history. “Days After” is the speaker’s, and likely the writer’s, attempt to make sense of the senseless, to explain the unexplainable.


From the outset, succeeding at this lofty goal seems impossible. The “floral print” the speaker dons could theoretically help him hide in a bush full of flowers, but it’s more likely that the speaker with his “face on fire” would stand out rather than be camouflaged. In trying to hide, he’s revealed. What’s uncovered isn’t all roses.


The speaker identifies himself as a participant in one of the most horrific events of our time (“It was my clocky hands that held the steering wheel”). Despite the enormous consequences of the events that unfolded, the speaker found himself concerned with superficialities, small as pimples on an “ugly girl[‘s]” face. Where we might expect sympathy, Scott delivers cruelty. Confusing the scene even further is the description of “the building burst[ing] like a ballerina,” and injured bystanders with skin torn “open as a hymnal.”


Words with typically pleasant connotations are mixed with teeth and bone to describe a gory scene. The effect is that we, as readers, question our own responses to tragedy. While acts of terror are undeniably horrible, considering how we process them can also be jarring. What does it say of us if we find burning buildings beautiful? If others’ suffering is what opens us up to religious teachings?


The role of religion in the terrorist acts of 9/11 and in our nation’s response adds even greater significance to the religious imagery present throughout “Days After.” As the poem comes to a close, it becomes clear that the conundrum the speaker is grappling with is an old one: Is the world completely random (“Unexplainable thunder” one day and sunshine the next), or is there some cruel deity laughing sinisterly as he looks out his window at the mess of a world he’s created? And what role does the speaker play in all of this? More importantly, what role do we play, looking out our own similar window, taking note of how people are dressed when the next atrocity might be on the horizon?



– The Editors