Claudia Rankine


On the bus two women argue about whether Rudy
Giuliani had to kneel before the Queen of England
when he was knighted. One says she is sure he did.
They all had to, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Mick
Jagger. They all had to. The other one says that if
Giuliani did they would have seen it on television.
We would have seen him do it. I am telling you we
would have seen it happen.

When my stop arrives I am still considering
Giuliani as nobility. It is difficult to separate him
out from the extremes connected to the city over the
years of his mayorship. Still a day after the attack
on the World Trade Center a reporter asked him to
estimate the number of dead. His reply— More
than we can bear—caused me to turn and look at
him as if for the first time. It is true that we carry
the idea of us along with us. And then there are
three thousand of us dead. Physically and
emotionally we cannot bear it, should in fact never
have this capacity. So when the number is released
it is a sieve that cannot hold the loss of us, the loss
Giuliani recognized and answered for.

Wallace Stevens wrote that “the peculiarity of the
imagination is nobility…nobility which is our
spiritual height and depth; and while I know how
difficult it is to express it, nevertheless I am bound
to give a sense of it. Nothing could be more evasive
and inaccessible. Nothing distorts itself and seeks
disguise more quickly. There is a shame of
disclosing it and in its definite presentation a horror
of it. But there it is.”

Sir Giuliani kneeling. It was apparently not
something to be seen on television, but rather a
moment that allowed his imagination’s encounter
with death to kneel under the weight of the real.

A friend tells me this story...
When I remember this story...
My grandmother is in a nursing home...
My grandmother tells me...

© 2005 Electronic Poetry Review