Two 911 Poems

[Two poems I wrote ten years ago right after the 911 events. Morning Dust was first published in my chapbook The Knee Monologues & Other Poems, Picaro Press 2009; After September is published here for the first time]

After September

our thoughts go out to the victims
we imagine the terrible choice
between burning alive or jumping sixty storeys
(can we imagine it?)

our thoughts go out to the survivors and relatives
we imagine their numbing, their grief, their outrage
their unutterable pain replaying answering machines
pinning photos in the ash white dust
(can we imagine it?)

we collect the televised fragments
the neat metaphors on endless slo-mo replay
special effects become Reality TV
with no happy ending, no hero ex-machina
the prime-time precision of the dark flying knife
into the sleek glass body the black billowing
dust-wave monster pursuing people fleeing
down the street the ash-grey powder
of non-nuclear winter caking faces
stumbling through a bright Fall
morning’s darkness

we imagine the bombed civilians in Baghdad,
Belgrade, Beirut, Tripolis, Panama City, Hanoi, Cambodia
watching these images remembering their own dead
we who got no CNN on their suffering, their terror
can imagine their feelings too
(can we imagine them?)

we imagine the peasants and rebels of Guatemala,
El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, East Timor
watching these images remembering their own dead
we who got no CNN on their suffering, their terror
can imagine their feelings too
(can we imagine them?)

the old, old story
the mad machine of history the massacre
of innocents and participants caught
in the bloodied cogs of Empire
they seldom see, the blind
return of the repressed oppressed
the terrible resurgence of the real
turned crazed and cruel through silence
the blood the shredded skin the soil of the dead
from which the crystal towers of finance grow
the screams drowned deep
within the clean calm crackle
of military computer screens

now the masters call for war again
appeal to blood and tribe again
and the people mostly follow again
until the body bags mount again
and more innocents will die again
to avenge the death of innocents
that were slaughtered to avenge
the death of innocents

and they will call it civilisation again
or surgical strikes or collateral damage
or peace, freedom and justice again
as they have always done
and all the apocalyptic terror
of the boys’ trillion dollar hi tech war toys
is as nothing absolutely bloody
when faced with the $5 terror of kitchen knives
in the flying bombs so dear to us middle class
over the utter vulnerability of oil-addicted cities

again the awe-ful face
of One World Or None
through a glass darkly
a glass

Morning Dust. 9/21, 2001

I did not learn this today
I knew it before yesterday

so why have I been writing
unimportant poems on flowers…
– Zbigniew Herbert, Five Men

a man was buying a cup of coffee and a bagel
for breakfast when the first plane hit

in a bombed out mudbrick hovel in Kabul
a young woman blew on the early morning embers

the man thought there had been an earthquake
and rushed back to his office twenty floors up

perhaps some hot gruel would quieten her baby
thin with hunger and lice

overnight there had been massive selling
in airlines, hotels, insurance

an old man knelt and stood and knelt again
an old woman crossed herself and knelt

the man saw the smoke slowly filling his office
like dust, he phoned home and left a message,
then ran down the fire escape with the others

she herself had not eaten for two days,
she would don the pale blue covering,
take her child and sit by the dusty road

on floor forty-four some man with a megaphone
told them to go back to their offices,
so they did

she stretched out her dusty palm
to passing bearded men shielding
their weapons from the dust

an old woman knelt and stood and knelt again
a tower collapsed
an old man rose and crossed himself

on a dusty road in Kabul a child died


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on September 13, 2011.

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