Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Poems or Psalms for September 11

Most of us are well aware of what happened on September 11, 2001.  Now we are left with discussions about the best ways to remember that day.

I like the idea of some kind of service; of course, I come from a variety of religious traditions that instruct us to do service every day, not just as a response to national horror.

I have a friend who finds the Psalms refreshing.  She particularly likes the unflinching anger.  There are plenty of Psalms for any mood that you might have this day.

I'm a poet, so I often turn to poetry during times that need commemoration.  It's been some time since I posted a poem on this blog, so let me give you one.

It's not ostensibly about September 11.  In fact, it's about the Mount St. Helens volcanic explosion.  But it feels appropriate for today too.  It was first published in A Summer's Reading.

Thirteen Miles

My declining health, your job loss—our comfortable
life explodes. That clean mountainside crumbles.
Stress builds, and the volcano explodes.
We can see the coming cataclysm,
the moment for which we have prepared,
the disaster we thought we could avoid.
We saved money and thought we were safe,
like those folks who lived thirteen
miles away from Mount Saint Helens
but the mountain swallowed them whole.

The day after the volcanic explosion,
we emerge into sunshine, amazed
that the sun rose as if it was any normal
morning. The world, covered in ash, loses
its color. Tragedy paints
our world black and white. We can’t imagine
how life can continue.

And yet, life struggles on, swims towards continuity.
We have ecosystems protected deep inside ourselves,
whole worlds that we didn’t even know existed. We discover
them now that our misfortunes have blasted
away the undergrowth that took eons to grow.
In twenty years, we won’t recognize
our various, volcanic landscapes.


rbarenblat said...

What a powerful poem -- especially the second stanza. Thank you.

Kristin said...

Thanks so much for reading!