You realize when you wake up on Saturday that — since you live in Brooklyn now — you feel the need to think about 9/11 harder than you have in the past; or, more accurately, you think that you should feel the need to think about 9/11 harder than you have in the past; and this is why you signed up for the concert at Greenwood cemetery with the Desdemona ensemble and Buck McDaniel and Noa Even.
A thought comes across your mind: that you aren’t sure where, or what role 9/11 plays in the bowels of your generation. You’ve heard Ocean Vuong speak of growing up post-attack, but as of yet no one talks about what it means, what it should mean when it didn’t mean for you.
You know about Ocean Vuong because you are a poet because your name is Dante. Because your predecessor will have died 700 years ago in the next couple days and here you are, 18-years old, in a new apartment and a new state waving around a name which you must struggle to not be buried under.
As you leave your home — and have triple-checked that you’ve got your wallet and your keys and your mask and your earbuds (necessary to avoid conversation on the subways; as a suburban kid, this is something you caught on to early) — you listen to Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11, and maybe there’s something strangely significant (even poetic, you think) about doing so on the trains. The quartet broke your heart the first time, and will continue to do so each time you reach the last movement.
But you don’t quite get there, not today. (That’d be far too poetic for non-fiction.) Because something catches your attention and demands that you pause before “the bodies were moved to large tents on the east side of manhattan”. A short, older Mexican man jumps on your cart with a little acoustic guitar, and after strumming the introductory chords begins to sing the aye aye aye aye you know too well.
And your first impression is that this too, might be poetic. That there’s something about hearing the line canta y no llores that is particularly beautiful on the R train, on September eleventh, after you’ve been listening to Reich. But it also catches your mind that this might just as well be coincidence. Because one of your favorite writers is Vonnegut, you can’t help but acknowledge that the aye might be the only song this man knows. That it’s one of the most common Spanish folk songs and that a Dawkinsian chance might be the only thing poetic about its occurrence today.
It’s as you consider this that the smiling, sprightly little man is passed money by only one of the passengers (not yourself, because you are worried you will not be fast enough, you aren’t sure what denominations of cash lie in your wallet) and hops off, presumably to the next train, although perhaps not another song.
Later on, as you walk by spindling tracks of old, blistered tombstones, you will hear music coming from the hill towards which you are heading; you’re aware that this music is not all the ensemble knows, not all the composer has written, but you find yourself wondering if it will hurt you more deeply than an old Spanish song you heard for the first time in 6th-grade music class.
Dante Antonio (@dante_s_antonio) is a musician, writer, and actor based in Brooklyn, NY. He writes plays and poetry, fiction and non-, and is spending quite a bit of time these days researching for a novel (which is taking much longer than he expected). He’s also exploring the worlds of microtonal and electronic music, and writing some weird not-so-pop stuff.