Digitally altered photo by S. AuberleThis was the first poem that came, five years ago, after 9/11:SINCE THAT DAY
I've wanted to write
about autumn evenings
and the quiet skies
my ancestors saw,
filled only with clouds,
and a lonesome vee of geese.
About Colin Powell's words:we are Americans,we don't walk around terrified.
I want to tell him he's wrong,
but the words won't come.
I want to write about how,
fifty nine years ago, I moved
in my mother's womb as
the skies of Pearl Harbor exploded,
and how I cradled my son
in the Vietnam war years, about his
twin sons who are trying to be born
too soon in this week of insanity.
I want to write about cottonwoods
on the Fox river, turtles and geese
and dying flowers, the sun,
this gentle, healing world
I walk through--even more precious,
but the words won't come.
I want to write about a new moon
high in the sky this afternoon, and beside it
a first trail of returning jets,
about words trees are whispering
above the water riffles, about prayers I breathe
as I walk the stone paths,
about a lily in the window of a house
and the promise it holds
of hope and resurrection
but my fingers remain stilled.
I want to write of the dream I had
where I touched the face
of a white-robed being who looked like me,
heard words I've now forgotten.
I want to tell you of last night as I knelt in the dark
cradling my crying grandchild,
and all I could do was rock and sing
and read What Makes a Rainbow
over and over, till her sobs turned into
soft breaths, the little body relaxed against
my own unbending one and we could yield
again to the peace of sleep.
I want to tell you of my train trip home
(because I was afraid to fly)
of the two women in seats behind me,
shooting tequila as we rolled across
the country, finally collapsing
in each other's arms--the brassy one
with crows nest hair whispering,
sobbing against her friend
in black and white zebra slippers
who colored in a child's book.
I want to write about the large man across the aisle
whose very breaths through the night
seemed each like a victory,
and the New Mexico sunset,
with its long shadows sliding down the mesas,
and a quarter moon setting at the horizon
in glowing, golden rose.
Finally, I want to tell you of a hawk-faced Navajo
who got on the train in Gallup, New Mexico,
sat beside me and removed his glasses,
wiping tears from his eyes.
I wanted to comfort him,
but did not intrude on the space we shared,
that space so carefully maintained
even as we yielded to sleep.
I woke once and looked at him,
his face softened in dreams, vulnerable,
so very, very vulnerable...