on the 10th anniversary of 9/11

it still helps, 10 years later, to tell the story of my 9/11, to remember who i was with and who i longed for. i am still grateful to those who held me on that day, fed me, and cared for me. and sometimes i still miss the ny in which i came of age, which died that day.

when i tried to write about this anniversary, what kept coming out was a series of poems. i am sharing here, and hoping you share your stories today as well.

9/11

1.
…comes rushing back to me
the sounds of it
the smells
the moment of not knowing it was
the last moment of that new york

I looked down 6th avenue
at the hole in the sky
the building full of sky
the sky empty of buildings
the sky full of smoke and ashes

and them

those who didn’t make it out
on those safe rehearsed evacuation routes
those on the steps and ledges
crushed
and dropped
and melted
perhaps in life they had been my opponents
suddenly I had none

***
2.

I understood everyone that day
every maneuver
I understood the taxi drivers
immediately and perpetually flagged
I understood the broken angry men
who had destroyed my home
I understood the strangers
white men and women
white flesh or white ash
walking up the east side
as I walked down
I understood that whatever they had been
now they were grief

I walked so far that day
maybe I even flew
for all I remember it

we walked so far that day
never looking away
never looking back

***
3.

i longed for my father
but he wasn’t in his pentagon office
said the person who answered the phone
and then they were gone
and my father’s office was destroyed
i still wonder who answered that phone?
and were those his last words?


***
4.

I couldn’t find my father
but I knew he was ok
or I denied he was dead until he came back to life
or my mother brought him back to life
all of our longing
prayer longing prayer

someone made a miracle
but the man who came back
had kabul in his eyes
where i had
rubble in mine

others had no miracles
their faces wallpapered the city
lit by candles and streetlights
lighters, flashlights
mutated by mourning and rain and time
curled up on the edges
our constant, collective altar

others had no missing
still the sacred city was suddenly full of gentleness
gentle words to strangers
we all had this now
we could all smell it
we all had ashes on our tongues
accidental cannibals,
urban war torn
we had all been touched

others had no mercy
they came in uniforms
dressed like my dad
but holding massive guns
guards, under the guise of protection
the fire of our altars
choked under their boots

I didn’t feel safer

others could not cry
except to cry for war
not me,
walking streets that smelled of incinerated human and plastic
finding papers
budgets, task lists, spreadsheets
many lifetimes of files
that had escaped
when their creators could not

how could we not see that
any act of war meant we lost?

***
5.

reborn
baptized in the ashes of icons
we walked to the river that day
leapt or fell
crashed or flew

a moment later
we were a new people
with new gods
and new rules

post american dreams
post democracy
fear and freedom cannot coexist
fear must swallow freedom to survive
some went fighting into that dark water
some went running
but we all came out
sputtering and new
the craven generation
with or against the mad king
shocked and awed into silence

***
6.

it has taken me this long to take the word american back into my mouth
it has taken my elders shaking me by my shoulders

you cannot shirk responsibility for this country
you cannot shake off these atrocities
its a bloody birthright
all children are born into blood
you have to grow up by growing down into the soil
past the burnt bodies and broken buildings
built on broken bodies and broken promises
built up, bloody borders
borders you live in whether you want to or not

you are the ones we’ve been waiting for

it has taken me this long to understand that i cannot escape this mark, ‘american’
branded into me with every breath
every right and privilege
every whisp of superiority that shudders
down in those darkest places

i was born an american child
that is my burden, our burden

i must remember how i loved her once
without knowing what a bloody monster she was
i must love her even more now
to heal the wounds that make her such a terror
i must love her
person by person
cell by cell
not as two buildings on the tip of an island
or a dream that will never, never come true
but as a child loves her mother
for the deliverance
as a mother loves her bully child
unconditionally

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  1. 1 bombs bursting in air at adrienne maree, the luscious satyagraha

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