I was a few days into my senior year of college. I was living in this disgusting house with a hole in the living room wall that we covered with the ugliest picture ever seen. I remember getting up to attend a Statistics class that morning. One of the strangest things, is that I decided to watch TV that morning before class. It was very strange because it was something I truly only chose to do on that day. The living room was uncomfortable. We had an old television that did not get very good reception, and I was working several jobs, going to school full-time, and maintaining a senior in college’s social life (which can be pretty heavy itself). I do remember thinking, ‘the weather was perfect that day.’ It seems like a sediment that most of us who lived through that day in the United States noticed that morning, for some reason. In reflection, it was like the whole country ‘noticed’ that morning how pleasant the weather was. I quick turned on the morning news and was eating a banana before I had to go to class. I had the television on for maybe five minutes before the newscast switched to showing the North building of the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. The shock of that was immense. I remember staring at the television and listening to the broadcasts and then suddenly watching the second plan hit the South Tower. I went and woke my roommates up telling them what was going on. I went to my statistics class that morning. It was still too early to understand anything that was happening or had just happened. Everyone in class was talking. There was so much uncertainty about what was going on. Walking through campus people were just glued to their televisions, in awe, and shock. The professor tried to start class, but he knew we would not retain anything and cancelled it. My roommates who had class later in the day, never went to class that day as the university shut down. The whole country was blanketed in anger, sadness, fear, as news poured in about the other planes. I called my girlfriend, at the time who lived in a major US city, and I remember they were very fearful about national sites in their area being attacked. It was a strange few days. The country felt like we all ‘were just in a haze.’ I remember sitting outside in our neighborhood, lined with college houses that first night. People had candles and were outside. Throughout the next few days, it was not uncommon to break into tears at the thought of what had just occurred. At some level, we were all deeply in shock. On the other hand, I also remember those next few days as being like nothing I have ever seen in this country. There was a deep ‘collective identity.’ We all bonded out of our shock and grief. People were gentle with each other and kind. Something terrible had occurred in the country that we all loved. Everyone shared that grief and for a couple of days, the United States was actually ‘united,’ in a way I had never seen before or after. I’m just telling my story because it’s how I remember those events of that morning. We all have a story of where we were on that ‘perfect,’ September morning. It’s hard to believe that the country we live in today is that same country. That day changed so many things in so many people’s lives. Watching the coverage of the 20 year anniversary stuff, and every year as one more year goes by, it’s never easy. It brings up all those feelings on that day. Just thinking about it still makes me tear up. The poem I’m going to share today was written during that fall, living in that house, being a senior in college. It’s about that time period and whenever I read it, it always brings me back to those feelings that were so strong that fall and, for most of us, still are today. Sending love and prayers to all those people who’s lives were impacted on that day around the world. Also, to our country who needs to remember how strong and kind we were to each other during those weeks that followed. If only we did not need a tragedy to make us as connected and compassionate as we were for one another following the horror of those attacks on that day. Again, the poem I’m sharing was written that fall. It’s not specific to the incidents of 9/11, but in the background, the events of that day are because we carried those emotions everywhere that fall. When I read it, it brings me back to that house, that morning, that fall, being young and losing innocence. I read it and I can see that fall still so clearly. It’s strange to think that there are adults on the planet now that weren’t alive or were too little to remember that day. That is why we all need to share our stories of where we were that day, out of honor for those who did not live to do so and to tell younger individuals about how we showed up, we came together, and what it felt like to be so ‘united,’ in the face of such a tragedy.
3044 Murray Street
For one year, I lived here in a back bedroom.
One revolver, a redhead, a hangover to be cured
only in topless convertibles on star plastered nights.
Every boy wants to throw a drink in some asshole’s face,
but it’s difficult to tell the difference between
running drunk in a much needed rain and human love. Difficult
to hear the difference in the crackle of a new record dropping
and the romance of another pair of pants coming off.
Outside sirens and arteries cut in the night,
oozing more romance into the poems that bloomed
out of the lisps of Sylvia Plath’s gin. We laid
in the twang of a bluesy heat wave of sheets
constructed out of old American flags. It was
porch, wine.. that kind of heart.
That always promised to pull out before
it ejaculated all the ghosts and ashes into the carpet.
Yet, somehow I birthed their distinguished shame
and spilled whiskey on Neurda
while driving home from a Ginsberg tribute.
Where we laid in the shade of poems,
still bloody in our virginities,
letting the quiet hands of language touch us intimately
and orgasm us into a marriage bed
of lives lived and forgotten like what we wanted
at the Wendy’s Drive Thru, forgotten
as I gassed the Buick forward into the sleeveless
autumnal equinox of a Tom Wait’s record.
Back to the back bedroom with termite eaten windows
and portable closets where we fell asleep drunk.
The air through those windows was as thick as a sniff of Vodka.
Weighty and awkward as the Gorges left on my car one fall night
with a pickle, a box of condoms, and a note
from a secret lover
who I imagined to be Anne Sexton.
My hungry body craved a place
where evening fell helplessly into a kiss,
with a rock and roll bad boy’s soul,
where a crush was a sweet ass amphetamine
you could overdose on. A soul
released from the purgatory of a dull guitar rift.
Into the night, where it could make people air guitar,
fuck harder, sing louder in cars
with the windows rolled up.
In that house, I fell in love with idea of
breathless pilgrims lying in their sexuality
that felt like summer strawberries or honey from a bee.
The house was a shot glass.
America gave me the loss.
It was everywhere that fall.
Neighbors lighting candles for fallen brethren,
cold sweats and Neil Young singing John Lennon.
Confused as a swarm of nervous starlings,
all I could think about was rock and roll suicides.
How they found Elvis, Kurt Cobain’s last thought.
How terrible truths float through dawns like feathers.
How when something glacial runs it’s fingers
through the body of a nation, it changes the shape.
I dreamt for weeks of the driftless regions
of my body that I had yet to visit or know.
What never interested me was the area of land
where the glacier decided not to touch,
but now all I could do is long for the driftless.
As I dreamt of places where the sediment never had to resettle itself,
I laid in a bed with a gun, an ashtray, a sleeping girl
all the protections a man needs,
when his mind sets out to discover a part of himself unseen.
Life was Ray Charles colors.
Love was Helen Keller music.
I was pistols and guitars,
Sylvia Plaths and saints.
The bobble of an olive in a martini glass
that couldn’t decide whether to sink or swim.