9.11

A plane wings across the sky in Washington, DC.

[I wrote and published this poem on the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The passage of nine more years has changed the way I think about the events of this date. Like Otis, I think I believed then that our best selves would prevail in the aftermath of destruction and horror. Now I think that if they do prevail, in the end, it will have been after a long detour through a lot of ugliness. I am not proud.]

9.11.01

a building is not just a building
it is also the idea of a building
separating inside from outside
sheltering, shaping, a container
of precious cargo rooted in place
a building is not just a building
a skyscraper is not just a building
reaching for the sky, it is also
an idea: that we can lift ourselves
high and higher and stay grounded

an airplane is not just an airplane
it is also the idea of an airplane
the gift of wings that translates
speed and grace, the passage
of precious cargo lofted by air
an airplane is not just an airplane
a jetliner is not just an airplane
arrowing to its destination, it is also
an idea: that we are free to go
where we will in a limitless sky

an airplane and a building: two
categories never meant to coincide
now intersect on a clear blue day
and our understanding is broken
only death can come from this
deliberate violation of space
and motion, it seems, not only
death but the idea of death
a building is not just a building
an airplane is not just an airplane

see what has been joined together
that should have remained asunder
from this strange and unnatural
union came a fall and tears and
loss to those who never could
imagine the worst; know now
there are always some who think
the unthinkable and can move
themselves to destruction with
an idea: we must bring them down

an airplane and a building, and
an airplane and a building, and
an airplane and a building, and
an airplane and a green field
where understanding is reborn
from the choice to die living;
and in ruins of smoking metal
where the precious dead are honored
with the compassion of the living
who search out each unforgotten one

a building is not just a building
an airplane is not just an airplane
each is the expression of an intention
to stay and to go, to journey
and to work together, to live and die
in one another’s company, by our
shared understanding and hope
in this space, in this motion,
this idea: that we are not alone,
that we will build and fly again.


A Year Ago: Tendrils

A vine grows in Arlington, VA.I had originally intended to post something specifically related to the anniversary of the attacks of September 11th…
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