Monday, May 25, 2009
The Modern Wing
The new Modern Wing opened at the museum
and on the last day of celebratory free admission
and the start of Memorial Day weekend
I walk through the slender glass doors.
The first piece of art I come across is
a picture hanging on the wall outside the photography wing.
It's a rooftop view of the lower Manhattan skyline.
I watch two girls point at it, share some thoughts
and walk away.
The thing is, before that day,
there wouldn't really be a reason
to take a second glance at this photo
But as the two girls walk away,
I step forward, close enough that I forget
I'm in a museum
And I remember what those towers looked like.
And I remember that plane, its wings outstretched.
And I remember the smell of cremation.
And I remember being 18.
As my chest tightens and I will myself to the present,
I notice there are two topless girls
smiling at each other on an adjacent rooftop,
their arms outstretched towards the sky,
mimicking the structures towering behind them.
At the time, 1998, this was probably Epstein's
subject within the big picture.
Upstairs there is an entire room decorated in
United States wallpaper and on each wall
there is a framed full-page spread of the New York Times
all from September 12.
The artist sketched bodies embracing atop the newsprint
and the black and white photographs of people running
and of people tumbling out of windows.
I stumble around this room in a daze.
The pastel states are scattered and separate on the walls.
I remember what we are memorializing.
I remember when this war started.
I remember the death count overseas.
I try remember why this war began in the first place.
The reason escapes me because there is no reason.
I leave the museum and outside the Aon Building stands on its own
and looks eerily like one of the twins.
I remember when there was one left standing.
I remember when this was called the Standard Oil Building.
And I remember what it felt like to see zero.