Eight Little Poems for September 11, 2001


But they will not say, the times were dark,
But, why were their poets silent?–Brecht

1.
There are no words
for the sounds of the airplanes;
no words for the sounds of explosion.
There are no words
for steel and concrete collapse,
words for screams, for running.
There is no metaphor for horror.
There are no words at all
for innocence vanished in towers of smoke,
sweet complacency gone.

2.
Why are there children
dancing in the streets
in that other world?
Hasn’t anyone told them
that they themselves have died?

3.
I will not imagine.
I turn my will from them.
I will not put my mind
into their bodies.

4.
A girl I know out for her morning run
around a New York City block
ran from the second blast;
later opened her great sweet heart,
and comforted, and fed.

The guys at the little airport here watched TV,
figured the route from Pennsylvania to D. C.,
how even a pilot with a gun to his head
could have shut down the engine,
headed for the ground.

We wanted to be together,
reciting the names of our friends.
I called everyone I knew.
I wanted only to see the face of my child.
When I called him, he was weeping,
remembering a teacher long dead
who lied about his age to join the Navy
when they bombed Pearl Harbor.
“He was only fourteen,” my son kept saying,
“He was only fourteen.”

The clergy talked a great deal.
The philosophers were silent.

5.
The cats don’t know what’s happening.
They want their food;  they want to play.
Are there people alive under the stones?
The rubbled streets, soldiered streets–
old folks remember London, Dresden, Pearl Harbor.
But this is home
where the sky is not cloudy all day.

6.
It becomes part of you. You think
I can’t live with this–this fear, rage, uncertainty.
You think  I can’t,
but in a day or so, you can.
The rubble, the empty chair,
the smoke, the hole in the sky
settle into the fabric
like wild threads in a tablecloth plaid.
You get your balance.
You were made to be steady,
to walk on two feet.

7.
What can I write?
The tomatoes are ripe;
the cats are crying.
There are buildings tumbling, fires.
Fear is all around. . .
When the foundations are being destroyed. . .?
What they did then.
What they always. . .
What we always do.
Feed the cats,
pick the tomatoes–those red globes
full of water,  full of life.

7.
Cornstalks descending
from the place the geese come down,
floating gentle,
golden feathers of corn leaves.
Is the world ending this time?
or was it an updraft over a corn chopper
growling through the dusty rows
carrying corn leaves lightly
to where the window opens,
the door up there to things unexpected,
miracles undreamed.

8.
The bow hangs forever.
Even when sun is shining,
even in the dark.
The bow is hanging.
No one will be hunted down.
Even evil will not be hunted down.
Even evil is safe from those arrows.
Now there is no vengeance,
since the One who owns it has forsworn.
The bow is hanging in the sky
on nails driven once for all through love itself,
and the blood is the blood of God.

 

Written about nine years ago–and still not really finished, but I thought I’d share the draft anyhow.

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