Amorak Huey
Doing Yard Work in Michigan, I Recall Visiting Ground Zero the Week the United States Invaded Iraq

When our neighbor’s aging catalpa tree comes down, it’s almost sure
to land on our daughter’s room. So it goes.
Bean tree, cigar tree, Catalpa speciosa—​​
long planted outside its natural range
because we like the way it looks and crave the shade.
We make most choices thinking ourselves eternal,
not subject to the usual cellular decay
or granted special dispensation via some kind of god.
Turritopsis dohrnii—the immortal jellyfish—
​​​​has theoretically achieved this state but in practice
it’s almost sure to succumb to disease or predator.
So it goes. My daughter was three months old
when we visited New York. We wanted to join
the protests but decided this was not a thing new parents did
so instead took a ferry to Liberty Island—​​
the statue closed because of terrorism,
we sat in the sun and asked a stranger to take our picture.
Later we walked from Battery Park
to where the towers no longer stood:
a field of dirt, a few men in construction vests,
windows plywooded on condemned buildings nearby,
soon to come down themselves. Our daughter in her stroller,
one sock lost somewhere along the way and the sun going down,
we were failing to keep her warm, to make sense
of this experience, to grieve or gain
or feel much of anything. We had the sense
these were Schrödinger’s towers: there, not there.
To be alive is to be dying. So it goes. I don’t
know what we expected. If I remember right,
which I do not, we met a friend
for Tibetan food in the Village that evening,
then took a cab back to our hotel and made love
while our daughter slept in a portable crib.
This tree is a problem but for now I’m trimming
the Chinese privet—​Ligustrum sinense—that separates
us from our neighbors. It’s easy work,
yields visible progress and a sense of achievement,
but there’s little music in it. Does it count
as having visited a place if we returned unchanged?
If we did not buy a single souvenir?

Amorak Huey, a 2017 NEA Fellow in Creative Writing, is author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and two chapbooks: A Map of the Farm Three Miles from the End of Happy Hollow Road (Porkbelly, 2016) and The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl, 2014). His poems appear in The Best American Poetry 2012, The Southern Review, Booth, The Collagist, and elsewhere. He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. You can find out more, here: