Very few events are known solely by their dates. Today is the tenth anniversary of one of them. 9-11 shaped the last decade. And yet, as Margaret Randall concludes, "We who so loudly proclaim we are above the fray / stagger in pits of danger still."
Albuquerque poet Margaret Randall has published more than 80 books. Her reputation and influence extend worldwide. And she contributes in many, many ways to the local poetry scene (including a faithful commenting presence here on the DCF).
So many preface first-person testimony
by mentioning the sky,
how blue it was, what a beautiful morning,
as if invading that loveliness with horror
made the crime more heinous.
On TV screens and in memory the planes
hit those buildings again and again,
tiny human specks trace vertiginous descent
and the great structures themselves
Disbelief hangs in every conversation, first responders
lost with those who cannot escape
a folding in of concrete and steel.
Those who do escape keep running,
chased by a single billowing yellow cloud.
Citizen families put in for compensation
while others inhabit a haunted silence,
impermeable border and walls of photos
call in waning hope: My husband last seen . . .
my wife who worked on the 80th floor.
Gloating claim to responsibility
sears battered skin,
last cell phone calls, firefighter heroism,
streets lined with makeshift altars:
all those stories giving flesh to supposition.
Nine eleven becomes a Before and After.
Two thousand miles from Ground Zero
I search an empty sky,
the cold anomaly of no flights
and imagined grief that does not leave.
Rubble laced with vaporized humanity,
grotesquery of twisted steel,
one gold wedding ring
and a packet of Marvin Gaye royalty statements
landing on picnickers in Brooklyn.
Clearing that rubble brings new chapters
of illness and denial, how to
move forward, rebuild in the face of a war
between those who seek revenge
and those for whom revenge is prolongation.
The fanatics who took three thousand lives
and brought a country to its knees
win big time and keep on winning
in the crazed response of devious policy,
racist division, unending wars,
missed opportunity for debate,
a shift in direction, solutions
where understanding might have grown.
Holy War begets Holy War.
Now nothing can stop the downward spiral.
Ten years evoke commemoration,
unveil a worthy memorial,
so forth and so on:
all those carefully chosen words
that shape honor and make nothing better.
Precise height of the new spire, wall of names
and water as eternal balm to loss,
while government observes a moment of silence
and asbestos-coated lungs give up
their tired fight.
In Mesa Arizona the Sikh confused for Muslim
falls again before a volley of bullets.
Again the schoolgirl in Little Rock
puts tentative fingers to uncovered hair
where classmates ripped her scarf and laughed.
Hard times lure more young men and women
into a swollen military
and more return in flag-draped boxes
leaving more dead among an enemy
just like them.
Orphans of those murdered on that blue-skied day
return each summer to a camp
where they say they can be themselves, together.
Widows and widowers remarry or don’t.
Skies are filled with planes once more.
A commando of Army Seals finds Bin Laden
in a country of forked tongues
and exacts on-the-spot revenge:
emulating enemies of the American Way
while their commandos multiply.
My poor country, I cradle your tenth anniversary:
loss still aching in our veins, pain crying out
and hate blinding us.
We who so loudly proclaim we are above the fray
stagger in pits of danger still.
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