Friday, September 11, 2009

Today, unlike other days

The east coast today was a bank of clouds, and the morning offered rain. As time has passed, I've had a kind of resistance to this particular day on the calendar--before leaving for work, I checked messages on my phone. Of course, the date came up. And I thought, I'm so glad it's raining and it's not clear and deep, deep blue. And I took the metro into work, deep, deep below ground.

I've lived in DC for most of my adult life, but I spent several years in NYC, from 1987-1993, while I was completing my doctorate. The city still feels like home if I go back. My own memories of 9/11 are of the chaos in DC--the six degrees of separation, as DC is a pretty small town--the friends, neighbors, acquaintances who each had ties. For a while, it seemed people thought it in bad form to write about the day. I tried, connecting it to the sense of immobility always connected to Robert.

Because the current Administration is more open about 9/11 and the emotions associated with it, more people than usual seem to be sharing their own memories. I have a poem, drafted several years ago, that I don't send out at all and probably never will. This seems a good day to post it--it's not a great poem, but someone I knew in passing, at a different point in his life (when all was kind of bright and forward-looking), someone from my college class, died that day.


Sometimes they die over and over,

endlessly descending the shattering

columns, those totems of force driven

back into the womb of my maternal

city, into nothing—

sometimes they have

an end, names flash briefly, bright

cinders rising part way on an arm of air—

breech births thrust at us last deeds,

contracts, statements, a thousand

thousand papers blown, burned

and scattered—evidence we gather

but do not need—

at times, the past

scrolls by in dreams: deep urban canyon,

sidewalks overflowing, taxis skimming

asphalt sateen, my city bared beneath

night's face—look up, and stars

are grim and glittering, too close, eyes

of thieves, neither calling a stop

to things as they are, nor letting us leave.

So to you all: posturing politicians,

jets flung headlong, committees,

commissions, bombs and wrongs—

this memory weighs in my

arms like a stillborn child: John

years ago, urgent lips on mine,

body pressing its relief on mine,

asking wordless as young men

do when they seek


--in memoriam John W., 9/11/01


Elizabeth said...

Beautiful and very moving. The images are so precise and terrifying.

Leightongirl said...


Dale said...

Yes, beautiful. I love the enumeration -- sometimes like this, sometimes like that -- it drives home what an ongoing, pervasive process losing someone is.

Peter said...

The poem's imagery deepens how I understand 9/11. Thank you so much for sharing it.