A Poem from 9/11/01:
At the end of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the Rude Pundit scribbled down a poem. Written after the exhaustion of that frantic, yet achingly elongated day when we still didn't know who was alive or dead, it was just an attempt to capture the heightened state of shock around him, the sense that we were at the beginning of a dark time, and the belief, simple, naive, but true, that we should record what we felt, in case someone asks, even if words, as they so often do, fail. The poem doesn't have a title:
This is the time. This is the time
When we cannot create metaphors – we are
Beyond metaphor. It is only in the literal, objective
(if that is possible) truth (if that exists) that we can
Find comfort. In cold fact – not in the warmth of
Like this and as that. The machinery of metaphor
Has been broken, had its cogs jammed and its rotors
Stripped and its belts cut.
"In an instant two buildings that were there simply
were not there," a friend emailed today. "If you look at the south end
of the island, all you see is ruin, smoke, and a vast,
choking emptiness. Somewhere in that big empty
thousands of people lie, some alive, some dead, some
hoping for one or the other."
I have been watching the television news for hours
– it is a numbing activity –
on the screen, framed, abstracted, dissonant, the
commentators attempting some sense of order, some
sense of sense, something to lean on for support
against the chaos. I watched the buildings fall,
collapse, crumple into themselves, a resignation. I
saw the second plane plunge and vanish into the side.
I can’t forget the picture of the person (man? woman?)
leaping from the top of one the buildings. You know
what happens when a person falls from that height?
It’s not the clean body outline that you see in the
movies. The body explodes, like the planes against
the buildings. I can’t get that picture out of my
head tonight. I want to create a poem about the
falling body, but all I can think about is the choice
– fire or falling? And what would I have chosen?
(Probably fire, but I might have taken the dive.) How
would I describe that body striking the ground?
Leaving a flower imprint behind? A water balloon?
Nothing, no, nothing seems to fit.
What is this like, my students ask me? Give us
something we can compare our feelings to, let us know
we’re not alone. I’m sorry, I want to tell them. I
really am. I can't tell you what to feel. I can't
tell you what I feel. This is yours to do with what
you will. Remember the date. 9-11. 9-11. That’s
all. That’s all. Like you'd remember the date your
grandmother died. But instead I don't say a word. I
allow the room to be filled by my inarticulate sounds, by
There’s a saying I once heard: The worst of us
Will outlast the best of us. I’m not sure about
Philosophy right now, epistemology or logic.
But I know this: In Brooklyn, three miles away,
Paper fluttered down like dying birds. Three blocks
From the explosion, near a man running away, a black leather
Shoe landed, a reminder for that man to turn around, look
Back, even though it means, understand, that you
Must remain in the underworld, even though it might
Turn you into a pillar of salt. I’d turn around. I’d
Want to know.