from Hawk

Kamau Brathwaite

copyright ©2005 by Kamau Brathwaite

I was standin on the steps of City Hall … in all that dust

and I knew that Terry [her husband the Captain of Rescue 11] wd have been

on one of the highest floors that he cd get to … in that building

for that’s what his Company does … and when I saw the building come down
I knew that he had no chance

Sometimes I start to worry that he was afraid … but … knowing him
I think he was completely focussed on the job at hand … sometimes it makes me angry

[she gives here a little laugh of pain]

but I don’t think that he

I think in the back of his mind … he was more concerned about where
I was? and the fact that I was far-enough-away … from the trouble?
But I don’t think that he considered … his not-coming-home

and sometimes that makes me angry … S’almost as if he didn’t choose me …?
But I can’t fault him for that he was doin his job … That’s who he was
and why I loved him so much

So I can’t blame him for that

His friend Tim told me he saw Terry going in and Terry said to him
We may not be seeing each other again
and kissed him on the cheek … and ran … upstairs [into the North Tower]

Notes on the Poem

In 2005, Kamau Brathwaite took subject matter that was still too fresh a wound for many to look at, and made that subject intimate and accessible without diminishing its fearsome power. In "Hawk" from his Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection "Born to Slow Horses", he gazed unflinchingly at what the Griffin judges called "what may well be the first enduring poem on the disaster of 9/11." How he achieved that intimacy was in part by transcribing the voices of witnesses and survivors. How he made those transcriptions truly riveting was in part by employing a singular type treatment that makes the words, heartwrenching as they are on their own, even more startling. In this collection and previous works, Brathwaite has worked with a typeface of his own devising called "Sycorax Video Style" (which he explains in some detail here). Note the difference between the first stanza (rendered with the alignment of the original, but the default typeface of this web site) and the second (an image scanned from the book). The unique typeface seems to jump off the screen or page ... like a ragged shout of anguish. As the Griffin judges also noted: "Brathwaite’s world even has its own orthography and typography, demanding total attention to the poem, forbidding casual glances." He has indeed achieved that here.

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