September 11, 2001:
It Can Happen Here.

A page for poems and other writings in reaction to the events of that date, and what connects to them for you.
Click here for Earth flags.

 


September 1, 1939   W.H. Auden An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
—Mahatma Gandhi
(thanks to Bill Scanlon)

SEPTEMBER 11, 2002

A year ago today
I ate at a Turkish restaurant
on East 34th Street.
Men at other tables talked quietly
in a language I didn't understood
and I wondered—
Are they celebrating?
Are they praising Allah?
As if Turks are Arabs
though both Moslem
as if all Moslems are terrorists
as if I didn't know any better.
There was no joy
in the posture of the men
at the other tables
nor in the tone of their talk.
The owner
a sharp eyed heavy set man
apologized for the slow service
so many could not get into the City
all the tunnels and bridges blocked
he shrugged his shoulders helplessly.
Of course no one is celebrating.
All of us—
whether born here
long time resident
or here a short time—
all of us are New Yorkers
and we had all been attacked
thrust into a cauldron of chaos and confusion
our moorings severed, hurtling on a wild ride.

A year ago today
I stood on Second Avenue
the wide street empty of traffic
and silent
policemen directing pedestrians
also silent
faces pale
some dusted with ash
walking home
walking away from horror
and the unthinkable
walking
walking with purpose
and without panic.

A year ago today
I stood in line
along with thousands of others
hoping to give some blood
a little of ourselves
some balm to the victims of hate
balm to our own helplessness
listening to a community in shock
of escape and with resilience.

A year ago today
I sat in a café
and ordered expresso and cake.
A café recently opened
bright and airy, uncluttered
full of promise and potential
a young staff feeling out each other
not overly attentive—
the baker, a Chinese woman
kneading dough
two pretty boys behind the counter
one white, one black
both with stainless ear-rings
shorn hair
and tattoos threatening mayhem
joshing each other
and flirting with the not busy enough waitress
bronze complexion, black hair
with blond highlights
blue eyes, bright smile
of indeterminate ethnicity
just another New Yorker
the café
a New York café
an unorganized non-institutional
united nations
that works with joy and ease
that mends rather than rips.

A year ago today
the flags appeared
like wildflowers after the rains
following a harsh drought.
New Yorkers are usually too busy
for the strident, empty gestures of the flag wavers
too busy making money
      making art
      making love
or merely throwing a frisbee
in a piece of precious green.
Now when all that gives
joy and grace to life
is under attack
a wound aimed at our heart
we all needed the flags
to express our joy in life
and defiance of death
and those who worship death
our love for our communities
our neighbors
our shared values
and a bandage for our wounds.
Our flags fluttered everywhere
      in shop windows
      from lamps posts
      and apartment balconies
      fences around parks and undeveloped land
      in partially constructed building sites
      on bridges and along highways
      and on our breasts
flags flowing from heart to neighbor
warming and flooding our communities
flags with no political rhetoric implied
      just love
      a love of life
      a love of our neighbors
a love of our larger community
this varied, dynamic multi-cultured society
that we are continually imagining
      recreating
            perfecting.

A year ago today
I stood still
in shock and horror.
And pride.

© 2002 Peter Goodwin


FACES

The little boy sees his father
surrounded by a group of men.
Some have guns. He presses his face
against a window; his father glances back.

The little boy expects him to wave
but he looks at the ground, his face
swollen and bruised. The boy wants
to open the window or run outdoors.

A man who says he is his uncle
tells him no, pulls him away,
tells him he has to keep still.
He wonders where his father is going,

when he will come back, but is afraid to ask.
Last night his father went across the river.
His mother left at night, many days before.
The uncle tells him not to mention

his father's name, to pack his things
in one suitcase. He looks for pictures
of his parents, but they have disappeared.
All he finds are pencils, his father's hammer.

The uncle gives him books, tells him stories
of orphans and martyrs, teaches him carpentry
and wood-working, how to draw designs
with pencil and charcoal. His mother comes,

her face washed out, her eyes swollen and runny.
At night she and his uncle speak harshly.
One day he finds his way to his father's house;
the windows are broken, the door smashed,

a neighbor's house is burned, an old man yells.
He walks to the river; the bridge is destroyed.
Two boys climb over the bank, call him names,
run after him; one punches him in the face.

A few years later, he moves to another city,
uses what his uncle taught him to work
as a carpenter fixing shattered houses,
replacing window frames and splintered doors.

At night he draws faces in a sketchbook;
sad faces, downcast, mottled, and misshapen.
His friends tell him stories much like his own.

How the troubles began, he does not know.
He is ordered into the army and sent someplace.
Here in an unnamed city they are rounding up men,
little boys are crying, one is looking out a window.

This could be the boy's father in front of him,
his head down, his face swollen and scraped.
He points his rifle and releases the safety.

© 2001 Richard Roe

CHANTER EST INTERDIT
11 & 12 SEPTEMBRE 2001

Mardi: I walk in the city park in Brittany,
rose garden, herb garden,
two goddesses rising from a fountain.
I watch yellow and blue birds
crisscrossing around their gazebo,
misreading the sign
Chantier est interdit au public,
The public is forbidden on worksite,
to read
Chanter est interdit au public,
The public is forbidden to sing.
I walk along the river,
watching the gold light
slip down the old houses.
I return home; no radio, no télé,
so I drink a glass of wine
and read my book, Feel the Fear,
while waiting for my date,
the army supply specialist.
When he doesn't show,
I finish the bottle.
All lines to America are busy.

Mercredi: Everything looks fresh
as I walk to the prison,
thinking how I will tell the prisoner
of my chanter/chantier mistake
and we will sing as we did
a dozen years ago.
The prisoner asks how I am.
I smile, "Couldn't be better!"
He looks shocked. "You don't know."
The prisoner, two months out of solitary,
knows it all –
planes slamming into the World
Trade Center, collapse
of the towers, Pentagon pierced.
We pray.
The prisoner becomes agitated.
"You have brought too many books.
They will never let me have
that many books They will all
be thrown away."
I lay my head down
on the scarred table
and begin to cry.
We do not sing.

© 2001 Elise Rose

Dear friends,

The following was sent to me by my friend Tamim Ansary. Tamim is an Afghani-American writer. He is also one of the most brilliant people I know in this life. When he writes, I read. When he talks, I listen. Here is his take on Afghanistan and the whole mess we are in.

Gary T. (from poetryhosts; I've seen one other slightly different version of this letter)

Dear Gary and whoever else is on this e-mail thread:

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done."

And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I fervently wish to see those monsters punished.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats' nest of international thugs holed up in their country. I guarantee it.

Some say, if that's the case, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan – a country with no economy, no food. Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately two million men killed during the war with the Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these women for being women and have buried some of their opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able to.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, it's already been done. The Soviets took care of it. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans; they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban - by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.

And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. At the moment, of course, "Islam" as such does not exist. There are Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if he can get a war started, he can constitute this entity and he'd be running it. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong about winning; in the end the west would probably overcome – whatever that would mean in such a war; but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden yes, but anyone else?

I don't have a solution. But I do believe that suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into creating more such soil, so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion.

Tamim Ansary

9/11/01

crumbling down
the infrastructure
the beliefs of millions
in moments
a nation
indivisible
a nation
in pieces
a nation
uncertain
gray dust
on an unmanned fruit stand
unheard of in NYC
a solitary tasseled loafer
next to
what looks like
a piece of spine
dry and clean
human bone
on empty streets
in the city of Manhattan
the mad hatter has had his day
large becomes small
a bitter terrorist pill
Big Brother thought he was immune
to the little brother
Bully pulpit
becomes bull pulp
becomes bull shit
thousands are dead
a jihad
a holy war
in which
life is not sacred
vengeance
is.

© 2001 Jo Jensen

The Price

What price
Indeed
What price is paid?
When the reason is
Torn away
From the rhetoric
Bitter fruit
Is what is borne
From shocking tragedy's
Perverse form
The wounds
So deep
And unhealable
Forgiveness is inconceivable
Revealing truth
Is encumbered
By a grief so deep
Resentments keep
The soul
Unwound
Unbound
Rebound
Be found
In love
And repair
Restore
And bestow
An avalanche
Of benevolence
Upon great evil
And in turn
Blessings
Will be the price
To pay
For great injustices
Day to day

© 2001 Robin Good

All of you who are screaming for war: are you prepared to pay the price, to take thousands of more casualties? Because, my big, macho-talking friends, THAT is what this kind of war would be like. America is a complex and open society with a massive and intricate infrastructure that is fragile and vulnerable and susceptible to easy attack and disruption. IT CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN WITH A BOXCUTTER. Let me repeat that:

IT CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN – IT CAN BE BROUGHT TO A TOTAL STANDSTILL – BY A BOXCUTTER!

Nearly a week with no stock market, no commercial television, no professional sports, three days with no planes in the air (for the first time since 1911), no airports open, the country essentially shut down. A week later and the phone lines still don't all work. A boxcutter, folks! Do not be misled into thinking the guy with the biggest missile is going to win this "war."

We will never be able to protect all of us from this kind of terrorism. Back and forth, more buildings bombed, more planes downed, more innocent American lives lost. When does this end? After we have killed every terrorist? When exactly is THAT scheduled to happen? Or is it just when we kill Osama bin Laden, then we win the war? Are you serious? We couldn't even assassinate Hitler during a massive World War that lasted 6 years!

Bush now says this is "a war against the evil people in the world." Oh, really? THAT war! Yeah, we should be able to defeat "evil," oh, sometime in the next millennium or two. Get a grip. "War" is not going to get the justice we demand or make us more safe. You know it and I know it. There is a different way to go, and I will lay it out in a later letter, but to simplify it for now and put it in a nutshell, it goes like this:

When we decide to help improve these billions of people's lives, we will pull the rug out from under the terrorists who need those they send to their deaths to be poor and exploited and angry at us. The multi-millionaire bin Laden isn't going to give up HIS life! When all the people in the Middle East have food on the table, a decent home, a good job, and democratic control over their own lives, who among them is going to be convinced to sacrifice his life by crashing himself into a tall office building?

Sure, there will always be those who go insane and kill without reason. The British saw that in a Dunblane schoolyard, we saw it in Oklahoma City. There will always be religious fanatics willing to kill and be killed because they believe God has so ordered them. Ask the families of the assassinated women's clinics' doctors in Buffalo and Florida about those willing to commit evil in the name of religion in America.

There IS a way to protect us from further attack, to lift the rest of the world out of its misery, but it requires some smarts and some guts, two things in short supply in Washington these days.

Michael Moore

Our Greatest Task

Love and Comfort
Is better than a winning spirit
Even Cleverness and Wit
Needs gentleness in it
We need to see
True beauty
For change to take place
We need more love in the human race
We need compassion
We need to understand
We need to listen
And know that God wants us to love all humans

So perhaps I'm not the first to say this
Well I hope I'm not the last
But I mean more than showbiz
That Love at this Hour is our Greatest task

© 2001 Art Paul Schlosser

The Greatest Wealth

To Love your Neighbor as Yourself
Is the Greatest Wealth
That you can give away
Hey try it Today
To Love your Neighbor and Care
Is the Greatest Wealth
That you can Share
To Love is to Help
A Smile
A Handshake
And a Hug
Is not Fake
But rather a Love Cake
That we can bring to the many people we see
Sing for someone a song that is Happy

© 2001 Art Paul Schlosser

Thursday, 13 September 2001
An excellent LA Times op-ed about demonization:

COMMENTARY
Islam Must Challenge Its Dark Doctrines
By YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI

In the emerging debate over how extensively to define the enemy facing the West we need to avoid both wishful thinking and hysteria.

The minimalists who insist that the enemy is only a small band of fanatics around Osama bin Laden severely underestimate the penetration of extremist doctrine within much of mainstream Islam, especially in the Arab world. But those who invoke a war of civilizations – a conflict between Western democracy and international Islam – risk widening the circle of enmity to large parts of the Islamic world that have so far been immune to the appeal of jihad, or holy war.

Far from being regarded as fringe lunatics, the terrorists who struck against U.S. civilian and military targets are widely regarded as heroes within the Arab world. Religious edicts have been issued in Arab countries endorsing the attack, and thousands danced in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza. That pathological response isn't just the result of anger at perceived injustice, but of years of hate indoctrination in mosques and from state-controlled media. Indeed, only in the Arab world is Holocaust denial a mainstream notion. Islamic doctrine easily lends itself to extremist cooptation. Islam divides the world into two regions: Dar al Harb, or the house of war, containing all territories ruled by non-Muslims, and Dar al Islam, or the house of Islam, which is destined to dominate the former. In a world groping toward planetary interconnectedness, this Islamic doctrine – which justifies the madness of holy war – must be challenged by Muslims themselves.

Humanistic Muslims need to face the lethal consequences of their theology toward non-Muslims. Apologetics about the nobility of Islam aren't good enough anymore. Just as much of Christianity has confronted its anti-Jewish theology, and many Jews are struggling to uproot the exclusivist strain within Judaism, tolerant Muslims can no longer afford to defend Islam's more problematic concepts. We are all heirs to complex religious traditions; the obligation of believers is to preserve the beauty of their faith while transforming its negative residues.

Those who try to shift the blame for the latest terrorist atrocities on U.S. support for Israel miss several key points. The Arab war against Israel isn't over occupation but the right of a Jewish state to exist. Last year, at Camp David, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from almost all the territories and to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians – and the Temple Mount with Islam.

More broadly, the terrorist's holy war isn't aimed ultimately at Israel but the West. Muslim nations are among the most vociferous in ideologically opposing globalization – not just its excesses but also its blessings, like a free media and a sense of shared responsibility for international stability.

Indeed, perhaps Israel's greatest offense to Arab sensibilities is its very Westerness, proof for many Muslims of its supposed colonialist essence. Western standards of human rights – which Arab propagandists routinely use to excoriate Israel – are almost unknown within the Muslim world.

Still, it would be disastrous to declare Islam itself the enemy. For many Muslims, the doctrines of holy war and of Dar al Islam are irrelevant to their faith, and have in effect been allowed to lapse. Sufis, or Muslim mystics, go further, transforming holy war into a spiritual doctrine, a battle against one's own imperfections. Demonizing one of the world's great faiths is an affront against all religions.

The terrorists want nothing more than to widen this war to include the whole Islamic world. And those in the Arab world – especially Yasser Arafat – who actively nurture the culture of terrorism yet pretend to condemn it hope to avoid the West's judgment. Neither should be allowed to dictate the U.S. response to terrorism.

Yossi Klein Halevi's latest book is "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land" (William Morrow, 2001).

Steel & Concrete, Blood & God

Trying to remain,
trying to remain calm, non-
judgmental, hip, progressive,
and yes,
religious
too.

Pushing an I-beam
off my beamer,
I saw God.
She was my God.
She was bigger than
their god.

A body flew
past me,
patches of blood
pierced, tattooed
my face.
I dropped my head,
wishing that I'd not
been led, fed, and now
bled
by some mysterious
fantasy - God
is what they called her –
god is what they said.

Now the picture unfolds:
it's God vs. god
as the rest of us
(sweet humanity)
are crushed by steel and concrete,
deception and howls
of a demon who,
so cowardly,
fled.

Pick a god,
pick a war.

© 2001 john tuschen

Bombs & Snacks

Tons of wheat,
of grain
in burlap bags
(lies wrapped within lies)
rain from the skies,
as murder
– the holy snake –
snaps at victims
and makes them late
for
the tea party,
so
they're kept at the gate,
outside looking out
nodding
at their fate.
A bombed out hovel
– dust and tears –
appear to cuddle
on the chipped out plate.
And the sky,
the pained and gray sky,
continues
weeping
.

© 2001 john tuschen

A further reply to David Brager and to Michael Moore:

Until recently I earned a (by American standards lousy) living teaching college English. I used to love my job so much I would have done it for free, but in the last few years I had begun to dread it, because of changes in American values reflected to me by my adolescent students.

It was germane in a rhetoric course to discuss how discourse and persuasion influence members of a society to agree or disagree, to embrace or reject each other, to love or to hate. Also how playing to nostalgia for a supposedly simpler, more peaceful past greatly boosts the effectiveness of any propaganda or sales pitch. They were still with me at that point.

Then I suggested that if we actually want to create a world that's less torn with strife and violence, we need to have a more equitable distribution of wealth, because extremes of luxury and deprivation naturally cause strife. I said the money it would take to provide essentials of shelter and nutrition for every human being on the planet is a drop in the bucket of global resources; that there would still be plenty left over to maintain a satisfying difference in lifestyle between rich and poor (I was not advocating communism, though my students accused me of doing exactly that). Well, lots of them hated me for saying those things and just stopped listening. The idea that the privileged should share any of what they have with anyone else was abhorrent and offensive to many of my unfairly privileged, lazy, shallow charges.

You two don't know me; I don't use this kind of language, but I think it's time for truth. A large proportion of my students in recent years believe with deep conviction that the unfortunate deserve their misfortune and the privileged deserve their advantages. And they learned these beliefs from their parents, who are at this juncture waving the red, white and blue. Greed and self-serving self-interest are the gods of contemporary American culture; we have been actively and purposefully exporting this value system to every country and culture on the planet, and a lot of people, including some Americans, resent it (witness the WTO protests, a terrorist action of sorts that a lot of Americans and Europeans quietly supported).

Which brings me to the final point I want to make here (different stuff to come as soon as I get a web page up and running): when I say that greed is the god of American culture, I categorically do not mean to say that all Americans are greedy or shallow. Exactly the opposite is the case: everywhere I go, I meet more good-hearted people than selfish ones. Truly, diversity is our strength; also true is the fact that every group of people you can name, by nationality, religion, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, financial status, social class, etc., etc., is a mixed bag: there are good apples and bad in every bunch. There are rich and poor, sick and strong, mean and kind...

All this is why I don't buy the idea that "we Americans have to be united" at this time of tragedy. I stand with humanity, period, as well as with the Earth and all forms of life and beauty that she sustains. I don't think we can afford to continue thinking tribally/(nationalistically) for very much longer. I think it's the Us vs. Them mentality that's so escalating the dangers faced by all on the planet.

Deborah Kohen, a Las Vegas poet/teacher

Father and Son

I. The Resurrection of Joe

They saw him enter the building
and then the walls came down
and the flames came up
and they never thought
they'd see him again
but he came home
with broken bones
and burns and beer
to cool the pain
he alone
owned
and the family
shared

II. The Beast of the Assumption

His upturned palm
made its way into her
sight line
she looked at his hand
then into the martyr's face
an upturned palm
like a gesture for pay
like the way to the door
like the tentative offer of peace
it was meant to be
held no quarter
for the beast
may rise again


© 2001 Jo Jensen

First Flight, 5:59 a.m., September 14

My husband and I glide quietly down Monona Drive
Friday morning, September 14
Our windows are down
And the air is wet with tears and dew

Triangular lights at a 45-degree angle
Swing starkly out of a navy-blue sky
My heart contracts to a walnut nib
And makes the jump from chest to throat
Rattling, curiously heavy, it ping pongs about

First flight! I think, first flight!
On the ground I gaze up from a now smaller world
Tiny lights that point to far away places
Anchored to a tentative craft
They wink with hope
And move on

© 2001 Jody McIntyre

DAY THREE

This morning we woke up to find
our cat had bit a mouse in half.
I don't think she's ever killed before.

So now I'm sure there is a spirit in the air.
I worry that the earth's collected pain
has reached a rolling boil.

But I remember six thousand spirits released.
Gentle ones.
They were not warriors, but workers in words
and numbers.
They did not die with a curse on their lips.

© 9/13/01 Judy Washbush

From a New Yorker article

The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or 'liberty' or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.

Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy – which entails disagreement, which promotes candor – has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.

– Susan Sontag

the apple of the world's eye
the bulls-and-bears bullion bullshit
bull's-eye
is now the smoking mirror of global reality
after dragonfly metamorphed to dragon

vultures of rhetoric and rationale are descending
like falling debris
as clenched fists rise
to jingle all their jingos
and preen their bloody reflections

for a long time we've been watching
men who made their money from oil
send their expendable toys out to die
with a little help from religious figures
and if you kill Americans you go to heaven
and if you kill faggots and lesbians and abortionists
and feminists and niggers and Jews
you go to heaven too

so those weren't terrorists
those were divine messengers
didn't you see their wings?

we've been truly blessed here; immune and unresponsive
as the gilded, gelded statues of obsolete deities
God Bless America!
or perhaps it is not the will of Allah

we've had to say we're under God
ever since Eisenhower decided he liked it better on the bottom
and there is no such thing as a theocracy
but dementocracies are a dime a dozen

this continent hasn't seen war in almost a hundred and forty years
unless you count Chicago and Watts and Sterling Hall
(Karleton Armstrong as war hero)
or Waco, or Oklahoma City
but we didn't call that war
we had lots of other labels

and the horror was unimaginable
unless you were at Hiroshima or Nagasaki
in which case it was a lot smaller and less radioactive
anyway, those weren't innocent civilians
they were Japs

and I'd like to sit under a cloudless sky
and watch bushes twist in the wind
in Madison a handful gather for peace
remember when millions of us
interrupted the president's football game
to protest an illegal war?

if you want peace
work for world peace
divided by hate
we all fall down

© 2001 F&JBergmann

REWRITING HISTORY

Maybe we should have

just paid the damn taxes

instead of telling

George III to fuck off.

Nobody hates the Canadians.


10/18/01 F.J. Bergmann


FROM THE MANY, ONE

As the soot and dirt and ash rained down,
We became one color.
As we carried each other down the stairs of the burning buildings,
We became one class.
As we lit candles of waiting and hope,
We became one generation.
As the firefighters and police officers fought their way into the inferno,
We became one gender.
As we fell to our knees in prayer for strength,
We became one faith.
As we whispered or shouted words of encouragement,
We spoke one language.
As we gave our blood in lines a mile long,
We became one body.
As we mourned together the great loss,
We became one family.
As we cried tears of grief and loss,
We became one soul.
As we retell with pride of the sacrifice of heroes,
We become one people.
We are
  One color
  One class
  One generation
  One gender
  One faith
  One language
  One body
  One family
  One soul
  One people
We are The Power of One.
We are united.
We are America.
We are the world.

WRITTEN IN RESPONSE TO THE EVENTS OF 11 SEPTEMBER, 2001.

N.B.: As I have been notified, the author is NOT unknown, but Dr. Cheryl Sawyer of the University of Houston at Clear Lake, Texas

Tragedy at Twin Towers

They flew in low that tragic day
With nothing close to bar their way.
And with dead aim they struck the tower
All full with workers at that hour.
Their jet fuel blasted through the place
And breached the far wall, fast apace.
No chance to live, all doomed to die,
All lives were lost on earth and sky.
The fire raged on for near an hour
Hot metal buckled, crumbling tower.
Down, down, down the floors did come
Til naught was left save silence numb.
Their hatred served, their ire unleashed
They practiced what the mullahs preached.
At last they reached the Great White Throne
How better they had gone alone!

Mdelrosso@wi.rr.com

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