Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remember, Reflect

"Tribute in Light" Memorial 
As Seen from Liberty State Park, New Jersey
September 11, 2006
Stock Photo, United States Department of Defense

In 2006, Galway Kinnell published a beautiful collection of poetry, Strong Is Your Hold. The volume includes the deeply moving poem "When the Towers Fell", which recalls with stunning clarity what we watched and do not forget.

It is fitting today, on this ninth anniversary that cannot be forgotten, to set aside regular posts and offer a bit from Kinnell's poem (it is too long to quote in full), and in the reading to remember. . . and then again to remember.

When the Towers Fell
    by Galway Kinnell

From our high window we saw them
in their bands and blocks of light
brightening against a fading sunset,
saw them in the dark hours glittering
as if spirits inside them sat up
calculating profit and loss all night, saw
their tops steeped in the first yellow
of sunrise, grew so used to them
often we didn't see them, and now,
not seeing them, we see them.

. . .

The plane screamed low,. . .
. . . and vanished, leaving behind
a hole the size and shape a cartoon plane might make
passing through and flying away, on the far side,
back into the real of the imaginary.

. . .

All day the towers burn and fall, and burn and fall. . . .

. . . 

I thought again of those on the high floors
who knew they would burn alive and then, burned alive.
As if there were mechanisms of death
so mutilating to existence that no one
gets over them, ever, not even the dead.

. . . 

In our minds the glassy blocks succumb over and over,
slamming down floor by floor into themselves,
blowing up as if in reverse, exploding

downward and rolling outward,
the way, in the days of the gods, a god
might rage through the streets, overtaking the fleeing.

As each  tower goes down, it concentrates
into itself, transforms itself
infinitely slowly into a black hole

infinitesimally small: mass
without space, where each light,
each life, put out, lies down within us.

© 2006 Galway Kinnell

The entire poem may be read at The New Yorker, where it was originally published on September 16, 2002.

The Pentagon Memorial, Dedicated September 11, 2008
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brien Aho

The Pentagon Memorial honors 184 people, both those on American Airlines flight 77 and those inside the Pentagon. 

For a photo gallery, interactive map, videos, and information about the memorial, go here. Hyperlinked resources about the Flight 93 National Memorial, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, Voices of September 11th, and related information are here.


Sandra Heska King said...

Oh, so moving.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Thank you.

Kathleen said...

Thank you.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I'm glad you shared this. Beautiful.

L.L. Barkat said...


"and now,
not seeing them, we see them."

Seems to capture the anatomy of loss altogether.

Beautiful poem, if one can say that.

Karen said...

This is my first time here. Thank you.

A. Jay Adler said...

each light,/ each life, put out, lies down within us.

We were in Prague walking the streets, saw police arrive in front of a building I speculated from the flag was the American embassy. Later, at an Old Town cafe table, a waiter's hands played the planes for us, first one, then the other. He swept them clean. "The Word Trade Center," he said, "is no more."

H. Gillham said...

This just gave me chills -- and it's a reaction that I hope I always have to things that move me --- that day -- that day, I had an almost visceral reaction to the tragedy.

Thanks for reminding us.

A Jay Adler -- thanks for sharing that anecdote. Something in the waiter's simple, yet effective pantomime created the emptiness left behind -- "is no more" -- :(

Glynn: Thanks for bringing me here.