Sunday, September 11, 2016

Post 9/11 Poem

On September 11, 2001 I worked in Washington, DC at a publishing house within walking distance of the White House. I wrote the following poem soon after the terrorist attacks.

Bedtime Stories

Long ago and far away,
you are the sleepy boy, listening
to stories of girls and ghosts
while outside, trees tremble
in the vast, unforgiving night.

Somewhere there are people burning books.

Seven and wearing ski pajamas,
weary and sincere, you ask
for just one more story.
Remember walking in the woods,
like fairy tale children,
pausing by a pond
to watch mallards glide,
scooping toads in our hands,
laughing as they jump aside.

Somewhere there are people burning books.

In the morning, a list that begins
“Bottled water, peanut butter, duct tape”
changes to the first draft of a poem.
Here, in a suburb of Washington,
I sleep and wake to the great grumbling
sound of fighter aircraft as if the skies are hungry.

Brother,
Once upon a time America…