October 16, 2001

  • I’ve written almost no poetry since September 11. At the poetry reading/discussion group I was part of Thursday night, no one had written poetry about September 11 yet. We’d written many other things, but no poems. To all of us, poetry is a condensed language that requires more emotional processing than other forms of writing do. Wordsworth described poetry as “passionate emotion remembered in tranquility.” None of us are tranquil yet.

    But I haven’t written any poetry, on any subject, except for one five-line piece about 9/11. Last night I wrote this:

    Dear Wordsworth

    Storm screams past my ears,
    beats on my skin.
    Ice pellets sting my face.
    My fingertips are numb
    gripping the rail.
    The ship bucks enough
    to throw me to the sea.

    I remember sand so soft
    I sank into it like butter,
    days that glowed so gold and sweet
    they flowed down my throat.
    Sun would liquefy my bones and bend
    the curve of tree and rock and shore
    and warm and close
    in the soft night
    my lover’s body and mine
    would melt together
    into cotton sheets.

    I grip the vision with my heart.
    I write peace into my life.


    Maybe poetry can be tranquility remembered under stress. Maybe I will try to write a series of poems about hiking in the woods, fishing with my grandfather, or gardening.

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