9/11 the poem

 

Because it is impossible to do even a superficial analysis of a poem without people having access to the poem being analyzed we are including the poem here. Although we paid $2.95 to get a copy of the poem through the Washington Post website, we did not seek permission to reprint the poem from the paper or its author.

 

9/11

by Robert Pinsky

Copyright Sept. 8, 2002, The Washington Post

 

We adore images, we like the spectacle

Of speed and size, the working of prodigious

Systems. So on television we watched

The terrible spectacle, repetitiously gazing

Until we were sick not only of the sight

Of our prodigious systems turned against us

But of the very systems of our watching.

The date became a word, an anniversary

That we inscribed with meanings -- who keep so few,

More likely to name an airport for an actor

Or athlete than "First of May" or "Fourth of July."

In the movies we dream up, our captured heroes

Tell the interrogator their commanding officer's name

Is Colonel Donald Duck -- he writes it down, code

Of a lowbrow memory so assured it's nearly

Aristocratic. Some say the doomed firefighters

Before they hurried into the doomed towers wrote

Their Social Security numbers on their forearms.

Easy to imagine them kidding about it a little,

As if they were filling out some workday form.

Will Rogers was a Cherokee, a survivor

Of expropriation. A roper, a car. For some,

A hero. He had turned sixteen the year

That Frederick Douglas died. Douglas was twelve

When Emily Dickinson was born. Is even Donald

Half-forgotten? -- Who are the Americans, not

A people by blood or religion? As it turned out,

The donated blood not needed, except as meaning

And on the other side of that morning the guy

Who shaved off all his body hair and screamed

The name of God with his boxcutter in his hand.

O Americans -- as Marianne Moore would say,

When is our courage? Is what holds us together

A gluttonous dreamy thriving? Whence our being?

In the dark roots of our music, impudent and profound? --

Or in the Eighteenth Century clarities

And mystic Masonic totems of the Founders:

The Eye of the Pyramid watching over us,

Hexagram of Stars protecting the Eagle's head

From terror of pox, from plague and radiation.

And if they blow up the Statue of Liberty --

Then the survivors might likely in grief, or produce

A catchy song about it, its meaning as beyond

Meaning as those symbols, or Ray Charles singing "America

The Beautiful." Alabaster cities, amber waves,

Purple majesty. The back-up singers in sequins

And high heals for a performance -- or in the studio

In sneakers and headphones, engineers at soundboards,

Musicians, all concentrating, faces as grave

With purpose as the harbor Statue herself.

 

 

 

 

 


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