my teachers wore the same face they did

on 9/11. I don’t know if it was because they weren’t

scared or because they wanted to scare us.

Turn around, one yelled on the staircase. Turn

around, as if each word were a half-iced snowball

or a knuckle crack. Maybe we should have known

in real fires no one writes out, Stairs blocking fire

and tapes it to the bannister. I don’t know

what real fires are like. Alva didn’t know

if her dad was late or dead. The way

when you hide toys from babies

they forget they ever played with them.

Our teachers closed the blinds and we

we sure if we peeked through we’d see

bodies hurtling towards us like ravens,

the way one minute they’re eating crumbs

and another they’ve worked themselves

into a storm. Alva closed her eyes and we

knew she was trying to forget her dad just

in case. My dad asked me if I knew what

had happened. When my dad was sixteen

months he stuck his thumb in hot tea.

My grandma pulled it away and he forgot

why he was hurting. Alva’s eyes were

two thin feathers floating outside

our window. We thought Alva’s dad was

smoke trying to reach 86th street. Maybe

we should have known real fires have smoke,

but we saw our teachers’ faces and got ready

to cough. The way babies will bite onto anything.

The way ravens all hang unto a branch until

it starts to droop. Alva’s father lived. He wasn’t

home, or he was and he got out quick. Or he

flew. Or maybe he stopped in the street to watch

the towers turn into toys and thought oh this must be what a real fire smells like

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