i give CPR on the anniversary of 9/11

Emily Mather

and I feel ridiculous 

shouting at a face that is eyeless 

and hairless and boneless— hey, 

are you okay— so I choose to morph this face 

into you. My mother, my sister, my 

friend of the family for however long it’s been 

since we first heard our name 

on your lips, breathless 

lips, lips inhaling confusion and exhaling burn 

as the heart of the tower gapes, heaving 

ash, but you are unresponsive— what 

do you do? Press the sternum 

until you hear a click. One...two— 

         someone screams 

on the TV and someone else on the street because they 

weren’t expecting that, no weren’t expecting 

that, so how do we explain 

something we’ve never seen before, like the puncture 

of plane against ribcage, hands invading room after room 

after room of people who didn’t know today 

was the day they would find themselves 

gasping, fading, compressing— twenty-eight... 

twenty-nine...thirty. Head-tilt, chin- 

          lift, breathe, 

breathe— your chest rises with a click, falls, rises, 

falls and sticks. I breathe into your plastic mouth 

until my head turns to light 

and smoke and there are spots like debris 

falling down the air, and I imagine the sky 

          behind you 

as blue paint, as all the people who meant to kiss you 

good morning raising their blue hands to catch you. Stop 

compressions if someone else arrives to take over, if there is 

an obvious sign of life, if you 

become too exhausted to continue, if 

the scene becomes unsafe. 

        I cannot rip 

my gaze from your sister-face, mother- 

face, friend-face, and I affix your face to other 

bodies too, to falling bodies because I need 

to know what it means to see a shadow that could be 

the person you love deciding— because 

it must be done— to jump. 

         Your face 

becomes ash, becomes plastic— press until 

you hear a click— and I imagine breaking 

your ribs because they say 

this is what must be done. I find 

     I am not afraid to save you. 

Fall 2020