Monday, September 10, 2012

Where Were You on September 11th?

Finally, a return to the blogging sphere for me today after a long and trying absence due to some medical issues. Thank you for your patience along the way. The People are still in the Pencil Box - no worries there - and I have much to write about their lives, and how I came about meeting them. 

For today, however, so many of us turn to where we were 11 years ago today - September 11, 2001. Being a Midwesterner, I have no story of personal loss, no horror like that of any witness, but I remember the day quite well for different personal reasons. Several years ago, I gathered those thoughts and those feelings and committed them to free verse. And so, I give you, "Your First Day of School", written for my daughter.

Your First Day of School

Today is
Your first day of school
Excited that we have
To let you go,
Our glee is holding pinky fingers
Tightly with our apprehension.

You’re ready and your dad is making us late,
As I smoke my third cigarette
In front of the television news channel I have come to adore
Almost as much as I do you,
Addicted because Floridians had trouble with ballots.

What a terrible accident -
A small plane and a glistening building,
But the rescuers will come and
I’m hoping not many will die today on
Your first day of school.

I need makeup, caffeine and cigarettes
To get through this day, I proclaim,
And it happens again
And they rerun the tape.
I don’t believe it again.
I run to the shower
To share the rumors with your dad and
I know you’re impatiently ready to go because today is
Your first day of school.

We’re standing together, once anticipating this day.
Now wondering and watching, I grab another cigarette.
We try to grasp for the gist just out of reach,
Today on
Your first day of school.

My compulsive news habit rides with us in the car.
Fumbling with my cigarette and tuning in for more,
It is not necessary to search for news today,
Stations throwing and blasting it out,
Bleating slaughtered lambs and shouting injustice.
I smoke another cigarette
To help me listen faster as I drive,
And I keep driving on, because it’s
Your first day of school.

There it is.
You’re so nervous and jumpy inside
So was I, but numbness erased my memory of you
For a time that day as yet
Another unconfirmed report was a sure thing.
But we walked pinky-finger together
In the door on
Your first day of school.

A warm and welcoming place,
Your teacher trying to forget outside the walls but
Unsure how strong school walls would be that day,
Asking gingerly in code
About the world as we knew it an hour before.
Moving from what we knew to what we know now
In one swift, knowing instant
One long silent gaze.

We walk away and leave you
Our feelings of fear and confusion
Thoughts of betrayal and recrimination,
Justifying your need to remain present and safe,
Normal, we said, on
Your first day of school.

In the parking lot, the planes were stopped,
Buildings burned, estimates not yet considered.
Somewhere something else was coming, crashing,
But this could not be confirmed.
Our government was running and leaving, all at the same time. 

I lit that cigarette I needed and
Ripped the torn pinky fingernail on my left hand,
Not ladylike at all,
But with my teeth
As my idling car awaited
My decision to go, to leave you –
Should I leave you there - on
Your first day of school.

Repeated confirmations punctuate
My drive back home.
The television news channel, my friend,
Incessantly chants the news,
Shatters the dream and changes forever
Our relationship.
Crushing my cigarette butt in disgust
I vow never to forgive it for showing me
The crush and crumble of buildings,
Free-form falling strangers,
Empty stretchers and idle physicians
Awaiting business that would never come.

The day goes on,
Husky-eye-blue sky and autumn beginning.
Not a regular day,
Not in the lives of those who demand fuel,
And find none at line’s end.
They still had not a clue
Not a wisp or taste or flicker
Of the impact
Of that day,
The deep blue sky imprint of that forever day
Which was
Your first day of school.

Written for Madeline, who attended her first day of school on September 11, 2001.

© Krobinson, 10/02/2004

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