Monday, September 12, 2011

On September 11th

I am at a loss.  I have no words.  I've tried all day.  TBG has offered suggestions, Little Cuter told me to stop apologizing for crying for no reason.... or maybe there was a reason.... I'm not entirely sure.  I do know that I was surrounded by love and concern and that I was able to offer the same to friends who were in need.

The words to write to you are absent from my brain.  Did Little Cheese know that when she sent me this poem?  Good friends do seem to have your pulse, even from thousands of miles away, don't they?

It needs no more introduction that that which Little Cheese had as the subject of the email: Read by Billy Collins at Ground Zero, 9/11/11

The Names

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.
...barely room, indeed.


  1. So amazing and thanks for sharing Billy Collins' poem. Yesterday was too painful to watch any of the commentary. So I watched a movie with my children and we played and I hugged them tight and told them how much I loved them.

    Hubby had on the commentary last night (I turned my head and walked out of the room) and my nine year-old asked about it and why someone would do such a thing. I was seven months pregnant with her when 9/11 happened. Hubby was in Frankfurt and I felt all alone and scared living in Washington, DC. I tried to explain this to her without scaring her, but she still has a lot of questions. I have a hard time coming to grips with it myself and it's hard explaining to a nine year-old that there are people that don't like us and want to hurt us. That's the best way I could explain it. +

    Sending you a virtual hug.

    Megan xxx

  2. My favorite response to "why" came from a child's handwritten note at the memorial outside the hospital in January. It said "I am sorry that someone did not use his words to solve his problems"


  3. Then we must follow Billy's example and always use our words.

  4. AB, that is a great response from a child and one that my daughter will understand. Thank you for sharing it.

    I was thinking about Billy Collins on my way home tonight and how his poem was so personal. He included the names of those that were lost and to me that said so much about him as a person. He chose to get to know the people he was talking about. That in itself is amazing.

  5. One of the aspects of this horrible mess that most bothers me are the thousands upon thousands of innocents who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan because people who used false words and fear propped up by the memory of all those folks mentioned by Billy Collins to justify hatred and more violence and to use up all the coming together that the tragedy had brought out in us. Sigh, indeed.

  6. Thank AB, that is a wonderful poem. I watched the service on Sunday - or at least tried to. Even 10 years on it's still so raw - felt almost guilty that I couldn't sit and listen to all the names. That I owed them that much. One day I'll get across to New York and visit the memorial. We won't forget.


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