Online Edition: Fall 2005

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Cosmos and Damian by David Michalski

Cosmos & Damian

David Michalski

Bootstrap Press ($15)

by David Madgalene

What happened to the Word Trade Center on September 11, 2001 changed the world and much has been written and discussed about these events. However, to find out what the World Trade Center truly had been, in its totality, not just word of its demise, is the kind of news that William Carlos Williams admonished readers to seek out in poetry. One such place to find this deep news, a revelation of the subjective truth, of the World Trade Center as it stood, is David Michalski’s Cosmos & Damian.

Structurally, Cosmos & Damian is a collage of poetry, prose, interviews, confessions and scholarly thesis. It is experimental writing that nurtures the soul as well as challenges the intellect, maybe because we know the outcome, and/or because the “story,” as such, is a tragic one. While Cosmos & Damian is certainly open to interpretation, the literal as well as the figurative heart of the text (the sections “Phrenia” through “Soft Manhattan”) is the chronicle of a young man who moves to New York City and takes a job at the World Trade Center. After the break-up of an unhappy love affair, the unnamed protagonist has a breakdown and returns to his work at the World Trade Center after hospitalization. One story of the thousands and thousands of stories that could be told of the lives, hopes, and dreams of the people who worked at the World Trade Center—but one that arguably indicates the dysfunction as well as the function of the World Trade Center, and the global economics it represented.

David Michalski began work on Cosmos & Damian in 1994, and we can only sympathize with the shock and pain he particularly felt as he watched the towers burn and collapse from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His decision to end Cosmos & Damian with the attack, as borne out by the success of his text, appears to be the right one. Michalski had meant to write a book about the life of the World Trade Center, not a memorial, and so he did. However, perhaps no epitaph out of the many we have heard is more poignant that Michalski’s in its stark simplicity:

It is the men and women, boys and girls so poured in and out all
day that give
the building a soul of dreams
& thoughts
& memories.
What exactly was the World Trade Center, or what exactly did it symbolize, that caused terrorists in an unprecedented historic action to destroy it? There are no ready answers but surely a clue or two may be found in Cosmos & Damian.