Poetry & 9/11

by lizard

America was attacked on a Tuesday. I remember exiting my house and seeing my hippie neighbor walk down the sidewalk. “America is under attack” he said. I followed him to his place to see what the hell he was talking about.

Inside everyone huddled around the television. The bowl made its rounds. One tower collapsed, then another. It was surreal.

Poet Claudia Rankine from her book length poem, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely:

Three days after the attack on the World Trade Center it rains. It rains through the night with a determination that peters off by morning. That same afternoon I go downtown to the site. The rain, I thought, would clear the air of smoke. It is still smoking because the debris is still burning. A rank smell is in the air. The rescue workers are there moving pieces of wreckage by hand. In the overcast, dim light they shadow the dead, are themselves deadened.

Their movements are so slow my eyes can rest in them. Something swallows the noise of the trucks. I see but do not hear them. The language of description competes with the dead in the air. My eyes burn and tear. Stacked up along the highway are the wooden stretchers that were never needed. Ink runs on the posters of the missing taped to the sides of buildings. The photographed faces are faded. In some places the rain cleared away the ash and the powdered concrete, in other places it matted the ash and concrete to window ledges, to car exteriors, to any and all available surfaces.


In the immediate aftermath I remember going to class (I still deeply appreciate the way David Moore handled it). I remember trying to fill the airwaves of 89.9 with music, trying to talk on air, and having to cut it short. I remember being bewildered.

I’m writing this now to get it over with. The cacophony will crescendo in 10 days, and then we’ll move on.

During that time we can expect this decade of war (stemming from what those mostly Saudi nationals accomplished with box cutters) will be chewed up and endlessly regurgitated, and it will be nauseating. The acceleration of our civil shutdown will be given the corporate hand-job, and the imperial crazy train will get a fresh coat of paint. Hurrah!

(Tales from the crypt Dick Cheney on the media circuit grinding rock-salt in our scarred psychic landscape is despicable. He should have called his book The Audacity of a Mother Fucker)

Shake it off. Here’s a poem by Robert Creeley, from Poets Against The War:


What’s after or before
seems a dull locus now
as if there ever could be more

or less of what there is,
a life lived just because
it is a life if nothing more.

The street goes by the door
just like it did before.
Years after I am dead,

there will be someone here instead
perhaps to open it,
look out to see what’s there—

even if nothing is,
or ever was,
or somehow all got lost.

Persist, go on, believe.
Dreams may be all we have,
whatever one believe

of worlds wherever they are–
with people waiting there
will know us when we come

when all the strife is over,
all the sad battles lost or won,
all turned to dust.

Or all turned to yesterdays news.


What we as a country now collectively tolerate to keep us safe is appalling. The following short biography and poem comes from the collection Poems from Guantanamo edited by Marc Falkoff.

Siddiq Turkestani is a thirty-three-old ethnic Uighur raised in Saudi Arabia. In 1997, while traveling in Afghanistan, he was abducted by member of al Qaeda and tortured until he “confessed” to plotting to kill Osama bin Laden. He was imprisoned by the Taliban at Kandahar until 2001, when U.S. intelligence personnel visited the jail. He told them his story and was promised a quick release. Instead, he was eventually sent to Guantanamo and held for four years on accusations that included being associated with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The military determined that he was not an enemy combatant in January 2005 and he was released from Guantanamo nearly six months later.


Even if the pain of the wound increases,
There must be a remedy to treat it.

Even if the days in prison endure,
There must be a day when we will get out.

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