A Poem of Tomorrow for Today

In late 2011 WS Merwin visited BYU and read some of his poetry to students in the JSB auditorium. He said that after 9/11 books of poetry could not stay on the shelves. He said people needed poetry in those dark times. It helped them cope and understand and feel understood and less lonely. It reached deep and endless. It touched hollow and unrelenting. It was like pockets of fresh air displacing the billows of dust and sorrow and hate.

I was in a poetry class the semester of Merwin’s visit, trying to write poetry; trying to get it. Trying to learn things way beyond my grasp from my immensely talented classmates. It was a wonderful class. The semester happened to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. I wasn’t there, but I have friends who were. Today always makes me mournful, melancholy sinking my gut. This poem was my attempt to express an aspect of that tragic event.

It is 9/12/11

nine twelve eleven
nine one-two one-one
as if my fingers
swollen and sweaty
slipped while dialing
and starting over never crossed my mind.

No one will come
until I hang up
and think more carefully
to push
finger pads to keypad
with motions that should be automatic.

It Was on a Tuesday

This particular anniversary seems more significant because it happened on a Tuesday. September 11. Eleven years ago. All those elevens. All those ones.

Individuals.

This poem happened the day after the 10th anniversary. The numbers switch around in that date and today’s date. Two lines are missing, or I’ve debated leaving two lines in, so I don’t think it’s a final draft. I can’t seem to find those lines right now.

Or, there’s just no final draft at all.

It is 9/12/11

nine twelve eleven
nine one-two one-one
as if my fingers
swollen and sweaty
slipped while dialing
and starting over never crossed my mind.

No one will come
until I hang up
and think more carefully
to push
finger pads to keypad
with motions that should be automatic.

Part of Why I Remember 9/11

There are definitely ways of coping with the events from ten years ago that are more crippling than reparative.

But remembering that loss helps me to acknowledge in a healthy way the time in my life when I was terrorized.

It’s not a patch I’ll ever sew on my sleeve. I don’t talk about it all the time. I was a kid. It was in the ’80s.

It happened. I can’t unhappen it.

But I also have chosen not to let it discourage me.

Through it, I have learned resolve and determination and forgiveness. I have exercised faith. It has taken a long time.

So, of course I see loss and sorrow, but I also see hope and trust that our country will recover.

We will heal.

Just a Few Things Intentionally and Unintentionally Related to Today

HOME TO ROOST

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the
day. The sun is
bright, but the
chickens are in
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens,
dense with them.
They turn and
then they turn
again. These
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small–
various breeds.
Now they have
come home
to roost — all
the same kind
at the same speed.

–Kay Ryan

From her interview at NPR at the time she became the poet laureate:

First of all, it comes from the thing we say to other people when they’ve done a lot of stupid things, and now they’re getting their comeuppance. We say, well, your chickens are coming home to roost, and I have no doubt that when I wrote this, I was chastening myself, and I was telling myself this, but unfortunately, this poem was sitting on the desk of an editor in New York at the time of 9/11, and it suddenly took on this terrible added significance, and I had to withdraw it because it seemed cruelly appropriate. . . . Now right after 9/11, that sounded, you know, the blue sky in here, the clear sky, sounded just like the beauty of that day, and those chickens sounded much too much like airplanes.

In relation to the beautiful day it was 10 years ago, here are a friend’s sentiments.

You can view this interactive map from the New York Times to see where people were on that day. You can click on it and write where you were and how you felt/feel.

This is an NPR interview with John Adams and his commission to compose a piece to commemorate the one-year anniversary of 9/11.

This is the first third of the composition:

10 years.

Still healing.

Reflecting Today

This is the first 9/11 since 2003 I haven’t been in New York City.

Maybe from my apartment, I’d be hearing jackhammers and horns honking.

I’d flip on the television to listen to the memorial service, to hear names read.

While I do chores. And while tourists teem. And the city carries on being the city.

It’s definitely different.

Our football team is away and will be playing Air Force today.

It’s Saturday.

I’m doing homework.

Really, life does go on.

But, I’ll probably flip on the tv anyway.

Nine. Eleven. Nine.

If it is
possible
to sigh
and hold
my
breath
at
the same time
I do.

Today
I wasn’t there
eight years ago
but the air
is heavy
as families
read names
but the names
float
more lightly than
our mortal souls.

It was sunny,
then
clear, catastrophic
sudden, solemn
I choke back sobs
today
tears fall
and it feels
like rain.

****

In related news, Sarah Bunting is still trying to find her guardian angel from that day:
The original story on her blog
The radio spot on today’s The Takeaway

I Tweeted This. Maybe Pass It On.

Operation Find Don – http://shar.es/943C; see http://tinyurl.com/qdfj4m for background.

Basically, one of my favorite bloggers is looking for the man who kept her company during 9/11. She wants to thank him. They were companions for much of that day, and then he went on to … somewhere, and Sars went home, and she hasn’t seen or heard of him since.

I want her to find him.

That is all.