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9.11.2011

9.11.11





an excerpt from:

Beyond Grief and Grievance

The poetry of 9/11 and its aftermath.

by Philip Metres

" The events of 9/11 occasioned a tremendous outpouring of poetry; people in New York taped poems on windows, wheatpasted them on posts, and shared them by hand. In Curtis Fox’s words, “poetry was suddenly everywhere in the city.” Outside the immediate radius of what became known as “ground zero,” aided by email, listserves, websites, and, later, blogs, thousands of people also shared poems they loved, and poems they had written. By February, 2002, over 25,000 poems written in response to 9/11 had been published on poems.com alone. Three years later, the number of poems there had more than doubled.

Often invisible in American culture, poetry suddenly became relevant, even—and perhaps dangerously—useful. People turned to poems when other forms failed to give shape to their feelings. Some of these poems, certainly, employed the language of faith, a faith that has often been mobilized as a weapon of grievance. Some were desperately angry, in the way Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)” promises to put a “boot in the ass” of those that “messed” with the U.S. of A. In Cleveland, I recall hearing some rather salty Osama limericks involving his mama.

Of course, poems that take on subjects as public and iconic as the attacks of September 11th risk not only devolving into cliché and hysterical jingoism, but also, even when most well-meaning, perpetuating the violence of terror, and the violence of grievance and revenge, as mass media did by endlessly replaying images of the planes exploding into the World Trade Center towers.
But we cannot be silent. So between the Scylla of cliché and the Charybdis of exploitation, poetry moves."


Photograph from September 11
by Wisława Szymborska

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.


xxx


4 comments:

goatman said...

The networks stopped showing the falling people after awhile. Like not giving the finger on the air or saying the word "ass" and deleting the word "hole" on network shows, we are protected from the more upsetting images and words.
No protection from the hate intended though, which feels much worse than the others'.

soubriquet said...

Those images will stay with those of us who saw them.
The network censorship was understandable, I suppose, but I think we needed to see what was happening.

How sad though, that the attacks launched wars still ongoing, and led to the deaths of so many who had no connection whatsoever with the 9/11 attacks.
Sad that we have so many dead on our own side, fighting for an unspecified cause. Sad that so many young men and women return from service mentally or physically maimed.
And despite, (or maybe because of) those military actions, the world is not a safer place, and more people hate us than did ten years ago.

The 9/11 memorial is a hole in the ground with water constantly pouring into it, with that water recirculated by pumps, running day and night 365 days a year, lights burning.... and all ultimately powered by oil. Oil which we buy from arab nations. Oil whose importance to us is so great that we'll make a pact with the devil to keep it flowing, so important that we're ready to ignore the facts that saddam hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, nor did the afghanis, and ignore the fact that the funding trail leads to Saudi Arabia.... Who we treat as friends...

Not one of those falling people justifies a single missile blasting into a baghdad suburb. What a pity that the result of that attack was used to justify killing random foregners, to justify setting aside the laws and morality we're normally so proud of, was used to justify torture, murder, and prisons which ignore all the tenets of the geneva convention.

To sum up: I'm angry that our politicians, feeling that rapid and decisive action was needed, have spent ten years killing innocent bystanders. Yes, they killed a lot of enemies too. But most of the dead are "collateral damage". And their friends, and relatives, who before the event, might have had no particular animosity toward us, are thus given a perfectly valid reason to become our enemies.

red dirt girl said...

goatman~

Indeed. The images were horrific and no train wreck ever came close to what I witnessed countless times, over and over, on the TV, papers, radio ... Just seeing one person jump has imprinted itself on my mind's eye forever.

xxx

red dirt girl said...

Soubry~

As you know, I'm not a political animal, but yes, you are correct in attacking the politics of the event. My country, other than Pearl Harbor, has not known terrorism on its shores in the forms of planes attacking / bombing buildings / killing thousands of people at a time. Our bubble burst that day and maybe for the good or maybe for the bad. All I know is that life changed that day for everyone who witnessed the event. And it is sad. Sad for those who were killed. Sad for the loved ones they left behind. That's what I'm remembering today: that peculiar sadness and the fact that I want to hug my kids and tell them I love them one more time.

xxx