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I had not intended to publish these here.  I had not intended to publish them anywhere, really.  But I was working on Diary Rescue and reading some others' reactions to 9/11 and I was suddenly compelled to talk about my own. I could discuss in great detail the deep depression that came over me for perhaps a month, despite knowing no one directly affected by the event.  I could talk about my sister's getting a flag tattooed on her previously unmarked arm, a seemingly extreme but I think, now, emotionally understandable response to the trauma.  I could talk about remaining glued to the TV despite the pain it caused me to watch those pictures and videos over and over and over and over...or the abject horror of sitting through the raw footage shot by that documentary filmmaker embedded with the firemen who were in the Towers.  I did watch.  I forced myself to.  I felt I had to.  But, far simpler, I decided to share three brief poems that, in three different ways, get at the ways I have reacted to this seminal event in American--and my--history.

Photos hidden away

i still can’t look at the pictures.
so many years later,
the thick white ash
a fragment of a
bad dream,
the reams of papers
from the smoky sky
in a nightmare hurricane
just an image from
some long past mirage,
and the headlines—
the headlines—
called up in the animated
of no-longer buildings
and used-to-be people—
the headlines
i read then, and
folded away
to keep for
someone else’s posterity and
never have seen again
and never will
bring the surreal
vision to the too real
where the pictures
of flames shooting from
of buildings collapsing
into smoke
are not magicians’ illusions
as they should be
as they would be if
the world were

Stumbling upon ground zero

driving one day through
lower manhattan
i was struck
by the sudden increase
in security.
the u.n. i said to my daughter,
and then,
oh god,
do you know where we are?
her face shifted for
one moment and she knew:
i don’t want to see it,
she said,
and i understood,
but we have to,
i said, we have to,
so we drove around the block
where a giant hole still sat
in the ground
so many years later
and there we stood,
while hawkers
sold souvenirs on
the walk behind us
and someone literally
on a soap box
blathered about blame,
staring in absolute
at crossed
metal bars
at an american flag
at a vast expanse
of still-nothing
at the price
of freedom.


I’m not proud of this:

When it happened, I was teaching.
It was a sophomore class, just a normal
Tuesday morning.
When a colleague alerted me,
I turned on the radio
And sat.

Just sat.

The newscaster spoke of the confusion,
Of the plane striking,
Of the second plane and
The news from Washington,
And I simply sat.

When the period ended
I suppose the students assumed
That they should leave
And just moved on,
For the next class took their places.

And we all just sat,


When the buildings fell, we sat.
Small cries escaped us.
But we did not move.

I heard later that some of my colleagues
Taught their lessons that day,
Kept their heads together
And bulled ahead.
I was not among them.
I was unable to function for days.
Weeks, really.

I’m not proud of this.
I’m not.

I wish I were stronger.
I wish we all were.

Originally posted to sunspark says on Sat Sep 11, 2010 at 01:06 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee. ~Stephanie Piro

    by sunspark says on Sat Sep 11, 2010 at 01:06:01 PM PDT

  •  "called up in the animated dust..." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allie123, sunspark says

    extremely powerful.   thank you for these.

    "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

    by kj in missouri on Sat Sep 11, 2010 at 03:40:57 PM PDT

    •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kj in missouri

      i appreciate it.

      Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee. ~Stephanie Piro

      by sunspark says on Sat Sep 11, 2010 at 04:21:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Remember (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kj in missouri, sunspark says

        OK, I got one for the pile

        A wonder died on the far side of the ocean
        The ashes of its falling took days to settle in my heart
        And years to relearn how to go on
        Not with hardness and revenge
        But with compassion and understanding
        To look less suspiciously at the stranger
        To long less for the reassurance of guns and money
        I accept now as none like to be reminded so harshly
        Nothing of this world lasts, good or bad
        Endure the hardship easily for it ends
        Cherish your joys completely for they end as well
        Even tears nourish when shed for good purpose
        What more loving farewell is there?
        A wonder died by the waters
        I visited, a hard pilgrimage in a snowstorm
        Four miles maybe from Midtown
        Long before so many fled a different blizzard
        Of paper and pieces of their friends
        And on the way on a wall a banner of photos
        And messages and little hand prints
        Laminated against the wear of time
        All this talk of stone and steel and falling water
        What better way to remember do you need?
        And I went on back up into the heavy frozen
        Streets and dark late winter day
        And passed schools bombed by dying towers
        Offices shuttered for good
        Apartments whose tenants will never return
        And came in time to wind with many others around
        And around
        And around
        The shockingly usual construction site
        Where the icons of our age once stood
        And the moment of their demise froze
        So many lives for so very long
        But there has to be a better way to remember
        Than stones and snow marches and the cold
        And harsh lights on a construction site
        That even now is just that and will be for some time
        Though soon... soon...a better way will stand in the place
        Than an emptiness hastily and imperfectly filled
        With memories and lamentations and love
        Of families, friends and lives connected by the billions
        To a place so many never visited and now never will
        For this heartache is more than a grave site for a few thousand
        More than a project
        More than a gesture
        It will not be stone that remembers, or tears
        Or walks to and fro in the New York night snow
        When the world changes there is a story to share
        And lights to light
        And love to share
        In words and embraces and tears
        And music most of all
        For a thousand years hence
        No remnant of any memorial will lay here
        Any more than any other grave
        What will be remembered
        Is that we remembered
        And how
        And there is always a better way
        Kinder, gentler
        More hopeful
        More peaceful
        The world is meant to change
        The towers of our self-assurances fall
        The pits of our despondency fill
        We leave some of our strength in grief
        But not at a loss for ourselves
        But as a gift given freely for those who come after
        And such gifts are remembered
        And return much improved in time
        Not always directly, in fact hardly ever
        But a thousand years hence
        Maybe three thousand
        It will be remembered that we remembered
        And little else will matter
        But that we did so well
        And left ourselves room to remember even better

  •  i felt my heart kind of jump (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri
    when i read these in the workroom.

    it jumped in that awful, hurt kind of way, the way that it jumps when you know that what is supposed to happen is that you should cry but all you can do is wonder why your eyes are so dry because there is nothing left to cry out anymore.

    and now seeing them in a diary makes my heart hurt all the more, which is not a bad thing actually but such a sad thing really.

    the poems are amazing.  i know that 'amazing' is not the right word but it is the only one i can grab onto right now that expresses my admiration for and my liking of and my being moved by them.

    i hope that makes sense.


    There is a certain charm in the purity of irrelevance. But the more relevant you get, the more real you have to get. (Barney Frank)

    by dadanation on Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 02:19:57 AM PDT

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