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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine
Born in Jamaica in 1963, Claudia Rankine was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2013....
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FURTHER READING
Poems about Travel
And the Trains Go On
by Philip Levine
Baudelaire in Airports
by Amy King
California Plush
by Frank Bidart
Cattails
by Nikky Finney
Dark Matter
by Jack Myers
Evening Song
by Sherwood Anderson
Flying
by Sarah Arvio
Go Greyhound
by Bob Hicok
I am Raftery the Poet
by Anthony Raftery, read by James Wright
Looking for The Gulf Motel
by Richard Blanco
Manifest Destiny
by Cynthia Lowen
Out-of-the-Body Travel
by Stanley Plumly
Passing Through Albuquerque
by John Balaban
Road Warriors
by Charles Wright
Slow Waltz Through Inflatable Landscape
by Christian Hawkey
Souvenir from Anywhere
by Harryette Mullen
The Bus through Jonesboro, Arkansas
by Matthew Henriksen
The Highwayman
by Alfred Noyes
The Strange Hours Travelers Keep
by August Kleinzahler
The Tinajera Notebook
by Forrest Gander
The Traveling Onion
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Travel
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Travel
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Traveling
by Malena Mörling
Traveling Light
by Linda Pastan
Trip Hop
by Geoffrey Brock
Window
by Carl Sandburg
Window Seat: Providence to New York City
by Jacqueline Osherow
Related Prose
The Great Figure: On Figurative Language
by D. A. Powell
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Don’t Let Me Be Lonely [On the bus two women argue]

 
by 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 had to. 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 and it is incomprehensible and ungraspable. 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 to be heard and experienced; a moment that allowed his imagination’s encounter with death to kneel under the weight of the real.







Excerpt from Don't Let Me Be Lonely, Copyright © 2004 by Claudia Rankine. Used by permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org
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