Before this month is over, I need to reflect on September 11, 2001. I was in a poetry workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA in late September that year and was asked to write a poem about how it felt. I could only write it in terms of how it compared to Paul's death. Compassion, sympathy, empathy -- whatever the right word is -- I have it for all those who lost their loved ones in that horrific and terrifying event.
Tragedy in Perspective
They say the poets need to retell the story
To find meaning in the devastation, the incineration
Of 3,000 people. We are
The ones who can make the world feel better
With the beauty of our words.
But, I can’t find the meaning
All I can see is the grief, the disbelief, the yearning,
Searching looks on the relatives, friends, colleagues
Wanting to know why their loved ones
Vanished so quickly
Just like they were sucked up by a UFO
A tornado, an avalanche
Never to be heard from or seen again.
Perhaps if I compare this devastation to the one in my life
I can find the right words.
The day Paul took his life, September 23, 1999, my life,
The lives of my family, were never the same again.
But, is it too selfish, too petty to look at September 11, 2001 that way?
So, let me simply say,
I can relate to those left behind
I can feel their pain
I want to tell them I’ve been there too
I know what it feels like to have a beautiful
Living, breathing human being reduced to
A bag of ashes.
Yet, maybe I’m lucky.
At least I had the ashes
At least I could bury them so when I miss him
I can visit and cry at his grave
And soothe away the dust from his gravestone.
The others have nothing
Only the horrific memory of watching the collapse
Of two massive structures
And the disintegration of thousands of people still inside.
I feel for them all
The grievers, the mourners, the lovers, the children, the mothers
All those left behind.
They are all me
Married to me by their grief
And I know as they know
We will all never be whole again.