Thursday, September 8, 2011

9/11 -- Ten Years Later

One of the things that the past teaches us is that there is really no end to the past. I saw this in my parents. For them World War II never ended -- even after liberation, even after forty, even after fifty years. The war and the camps my parents suffered in were always there. A snowy day in November would put my mom back in the frozen beet fields that the German guards forced her to work in that first winter in Germany. A TV show as harmless as Hogan's Heroes would leave my father shaking.

I've seen this in other survivors and veterans, and I'm sure you have too.

What the war taught them was that war has no beginning and no end.

It's the same for a lot of us with 9/11. We want it to have an end. We want what people call closure. We want to get beyond what happened.

We've been fighting the War on Terrorism for 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Islamic world is changing rapidly where ever we look, and we've killed Osama bin Laden. So why does 9/11 still feel like it happened yesterday? Why does a film clip of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers stop us? Why does a voice recording of a stewardess on that plane talking to ground control about not being able to open the door to the cockpit bring us to tears?

We want an end, and we've wanted it for ten years, and it hasn't happened, and it never will. That's one of the things that 9/11 has taught us.

I've written a number of poems about 9/11 over the years. The first one was written a couple days of 9/11. That poem talked about how I wanted an end to 9/11. It didn't happen then, and it hasn't happened since.

Here it is:

Sept 13, 2001

I want to come home
and turn on the evening news
and not see bin Laden,
his terrible lightning
piercing the sky
and showering clouds
of metal down on the streets

I want to say to my wife,
Linda, do you think
it will rain tomorrow?
If it doesn’t, maybe we can
plant those mums in the garden
to replace the verbena
that have been struggling
all summer with the heat,
the sun drying them
to brown slivers, nothing
red or green about them

And I want her to say,
if it rains let’s go to the bookstore
and have a cup of Starbucks
and read some travel books
and talk about where we’ll go
when Lillian comes home
during Christmas break

She’ll need something
to take her mind off
her first year of law school


I've posted three other times about 9/11.

The first post was a letter I wrote shortly after 9/11. It's called "The Short View and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks."

The second was an update to that post -- talking about what 9/11 looked like in 2007.

The last was about an anthology of poems on how we look at God since 9/11.


Urkat said...

John, Very profound observation. Thank you!

Danuta Hinc said...

Beautiful poem, John, and so true. You captured the essence of time and the constancy or stillness of it when it comes to pain.

John Guzlowski said...

Matt and Danuta, thanks for reading the post and the poem. It means a lot to me.

Charles Fishman said...

Good, clear, honest, & evocative work, John, as always.

Fredericka Jacks said...

Moving Poem, John. 9/11 was my first day back to work after maternity leave. We had brought our new daughter home from Lithuania 7 months before. Upon exiting the subway, I heard the first plane hit...
I walked home to Brooklyn covered in ash not knowing if I would ever see Karolina again.

fz said...

The knitting of family, the next generation, through your daughter and her future ahead via law school is a wonderful gesture of hope in the midst of this wreckage. Well done!

fz said...

The weaving of family into this poem through the figure of your daughter and law school is a wonderful gesture of hope in the midst of this wreckage. Well done!

Danusha Goska said...

"War is always." A line from "The Truce" based on a book by Primo Levi. This war has been going on for 1400 years, and its end is not likely to occur any time soon.

So, by all means, plant your mums. And keep your powder dry.

Lucia (Piaskowiak) May said...

Dear John,

I read your chapbook, Lightning and Ashes about a year ago, and I found it unspeakably moving. I have since come upon some of your writings in your blogs that speak of growing up Polish in the States to immigrant parents. I am impressed with your compassion and generous heart.

I am a violinist and poet who teaches in St. Paul, MN. My father was one of the many Polish boys taken from their farms into forced labor in Germany during World War II. Although my mother was born in Cleveland, her parents were recent Polish immigrants. The only language necessary in her neighborhood was Polish, before first grade.

I would be very grateful if it were possible to be in direct contact with you. Here is my email address:
I so hope to hear from you.

Yours truly,
Lucia (Piaskowiak) May

Anonymous said...

The year 2001 should not be repeated