“There’s a Hole in the City” by Rick Bowes: An Appreciation by M. Rickert
Writers don't have to write about war, terrorism or brutality. They don't have to do it, and not all should. Writers, most of all, must find their voices. That is the covenant they make with the word. But for those writers who are given the material, the passion, the voice to speak of things that make us sad to be human, it must be said; truth is not lost, until it is silenced.
The first time I read Rick Bowe's story, "There's a Hole in the City" I caught on fire. My hands burned and my eyes teared up from the smoke. My breath shortened. I walked away and left the fire where it started, in the story on the computer. I thought of peaches.
The Sunday before September eleventh one of the woman in my Tai Chi group brought peaches to share. I live in upstate New York and hadn't had a good peach since I was a kid. Peaches in the supermarket were hard and dry. I had given up eating them. But these peaches, locally grown, were incredibly sweet and juicy, so much so that after Tai Chi that day, my husband and I drove to the farmstand to buy our own. It was a tenderly beautiful day, the sky, true blue, the way a kindergartner might paint it, dotted with fat, white Georgia O'Keefe clouds. I remember how light I felt, as if the light of that day, combined with the sun- infused peaches was something I had ingested or become a part of. That was September ninth. I don't remember if I ate a peach the next morning, or the one after that, but for some reason the flavor of peaches is, for me, the flavor of September eleventh. I am sure I will never eat another peach without tasting ash.
After the fire went out, the story lingered on my tongue with the taste of peaches and death.
The large story of loss here is composed of the individual stories of loss. If, like me, you burn from memory and fear when you read this the first time (that's how perfect the writing is) read it again, because the story is essentially one of solace. There is suffering. There is death. There is love. (Ashes, peaches, sweet flavor of life.) You will find more solace in rereading this story than you ever will by watching the towers fall again.
What can we learn from the dead? Why look at such bleak faces when we can be making love, eating chocolate, smelling the apple blossom scent of snow? Why walk with the dead when there will be enough time for that eventually? Read this story. The dead walk with us. They have things to say.
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