SEPTEMBER 11 2016
POP : POETRY OF REMEMBRANCE
THE OKLAHOMA JAZZ HALL OF FAME
Social, Political & Equality Activists :
Sharon King Davis
Full of Funk :
Olivia Duhon vocals
Dr. Clark Gibson sax
Sean Al-Jibouri guitar
Mike Patterson percussion
The jet ripped into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Black smoke turned into flaming debris. The sun blotted out. Everything covered in dust and eerie desolate silence.
All we could do was watch. We crowded radios and TVs for weeks as an alien world was revealed. Confusion turned to panic: How could this happen? Then to anger: Who would dare do this to America?
All air traffic grounded in a matter of hours. The world economy plummeted for months. Indeed, we had entered a strange new world, ushered in by 19 men who hijacked four planes. The event changed everything: how we travel, how wars are fought, how we live amongst uncertainty.
However, hints of togetherness also began on September 11th. A sea of waving American flags, then in pins, T-shirts and bumper stickers.
There are tragedies so big they tear the power away from us, and in hopes of taking agency over loss, to bring composure, some turned to poetry. Actually, a lot of us turned to poetry.
Post 9/11 fostered a tremendous out pour of poetry; poems were taped on windows, wheat-pasted them on posts, and shared by hand. By February, 2002, over 25,000 poems written in response to 9/11 had been published on poems.com alone. Three years later, the number of poems there had more than doubled.
Now that we are at some small distance from 9/11 (but still feel the searing emotions of that day) it may be useful to consider some poems of the last few years that seem viable, seem necessary, for our well-being.
Looking at the problems besetting the nation 15 years later: trillions in federal debt, rampant unemployment, wars abroad, bickering politicians, bloated government budgets, increased weather-related disasters, weekly worldwide terrorist attacks, the list could go on.
Since poetry offers a stable ground of knowing, of right reason, and of agency, it’s hard to find a better medium to commemorate the occasion.
In Central Park
the trees are the same as they were
before September 11.
When I walk leaves still fall.
I even wear the same shoes.
But I was younger before
I’d never walked in the Rambles
fearful I’d get lost
too proud to admit that I could.
Now I have fierceness, ready
to find a fresh trail or a new landmark.
I feel more beautiful these days.
My skin smoother
My heart rugged
When I find a dried leaf
in the pages of my book
I remember why
it was saved.
Photograph from September 11
They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them
above the earth toward the earth.
Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.
There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.
They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.
I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.
POP Contest Winner:
Contrest Prize Provided By:
Tulsa Highball Etched Glass
Special thanks to:
Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
Warhol / Madison Ave. / 9-11
When I left Eli Zabar the cut-out star on the window
was whirling in the animation of the rich and hungry
hunched over tables for a $30 sandwich and a Diet Coke.
It was raining and the blurred glass of the galleries
was the gold leaf of the Carrig Rhone frames—
Childe Hassam’s dabs of Connecticut trees
the diaphanous blue on the fleshy rocks,
the melting opal of the shoals.
Inside the Whitney the rain trailed down my face;
and I found myself in a quiet corner staring
at the pink face of Marilyn Monroe.
I could still smell the smoldering high-tech plastic
as it burned the air. In the whiteness of her teeth,
in the almost aahh of her mouth and the half-drugged eyes
under the lids of teal shadow, the air kept singeing my nose.
Against the pale walls Marilyn’s face dissolved
like a stretched mesh and litho ink
where plain form is a place of no desire
like the empty mirror of the Hudson at dawn.
In the fissures of her make-up, the planes of color
led back and back behind her teeth longing—
to the deception by the Falls on her honeymoon
(with Joseph Cotton in Niagara)—where we found her clothed
and alarmed, and later desperate for the affirmation,
of a President’s limp dick and the crisp sheets
the same color of these walls—as my t shirt dries to my skin
and the faintest scent of ground zero
sifts down on the walls
whiter than the wingtip vortices
of melting in the morning light.