“Today, We are all Americans”

 Posted by on September 11, 2011  Add comments
Sep 112011

Jean-Marie Colombani, Le Monde, Paris, France, Sept. 12, 2001

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th left an indelible mark on lives around the world. Ten [Eleven as of 2012] years later, we exist in a world that has, of course, been drastically altered.

I’ll leave the meta-fiction of politics and socio-economics to the people who immerse themselves in such things. Instead, we’ll be hosting a memorial of writing and art related to the events of September 11th.

This is our memorial to the people affected by the events of September 11th. Today, and during the rest of the week, we will host an array of art. Some of these pieces are elegies, some strike a chord of hope, some show the gritty truth of how some lives have changed. All of them are great works of art by great artists, and we thank them for their contributions.

If you have any images or words to add to this, please contact us!.
–Scott Creley

Table of Contents

Tom Thomas
Luke Salazar
Eric Morago
X.J. Kennedy
Jessica Drawbond-Page
Jo Scott-Coe
Scott Creley
John Brantingham
Lloyd Aquino

Daniel Ruiz


Untitled — Tom Thomas

in a moment
flash of time – turn a corner
never to return


Tattoo –Luke Salazar

Kid, ya sittin’ too close to the TV again.

OK, Granpa.

On the flickering screen
the black and white admiral
addresses his troops.

“Men, as you march forth,
remember how lucky you are
to have the chance to be a hero . . . ”

Ah, can’t we watch something else
besides this gobbage?

“Remember your God,
remember your Country . . . ”

But I like it.

C’mere and look at something, boychik.

The old man rolls up his sleeve.
The child traces a finger along
the five ancient numerals,
the blurry blue triangle beneath.

What’s it say, Granpa?

It says
as he points at the TV
that this man here, is a liar.

Wanna watch cartoons instead?

Yeah. I’d like that.

Before life and after death — Daniel Ruiz

When you think of the children,
do you dream in color?
And when we were paraded
as a cause and a sin and a mother’s sorrow,
were you surprised we did anything else?

If you take a generation’s virginity
with four silver daggers,
two falling towers,
and a shit load
of speeches and committees,
do you expect us to smile at the tax hike?
Do you expect us to know when to stop?

If you are the product of a consequence
never the action,
does the TV lie to soothe
or to shape?
One day you’ll be old enough
to do it your kids.

We woke up to falling buildings,
and we are told to dream of burning angels,
and we were reminded of our loss,
and we have forgotten something greater.

We made heroes into advertisements,
we made villains into elections,
we made innocents into revenge,

we have forgotten something greater.

Working the Angles — Eric Morago

Would you like to buy some chocolate for Jesus?
he asks, waving candy bars like tickets he’s scalping
for a concert—one he’s certain I want into.

It is September 2002—the sun is a violent lover.
I am more sweat than blood, and wonder what miracle
keeps chocolate from melting in his hands.

They’re toffee, he points out,
as if it makes a difference.
I tell him, No thanks.

His smile is an accordion, stretching as he says,
Jesus loves you,
then compressing when I walk away.

The next day he’s at it again, working the angles—
the overweight and under-will-powered,

old ladies with costume jewelry crosses
hanging from their necks like bullseyes,

parents of sugar-starved children who recognize
the word no as a grenade pin they don’t dare pull.

He asks for charity from all but one—
a dark-skinned man in a turban.

Would it really offend Jesus
if offered chocolate from a Muslim?
Would the nougat be any less sweet?

He seems to think so,
and I am sad for this world.

Give me one instead where Jesus and Mohammad
sit around eating Hershey’s Kisses,
waiting for Krishna to arrive with devil’s food cake.



September Twelfth, 2001 — X.J. Kennedy

Two caught on film who hurtle
from the eithy-second floor,
choosing between a fireball
and to jump holding hands,

aren’t us. I wake beside you,
stretch. Scratch, taste the air,
the incredible joy of coffee
and the morning light.

Alive, we open eyelids
on our pitiful share of time,
we bubbles rising and bursting
in a boiling pot.

from Good Poems for Hard Times ed. by Garrison Keillor


On Reading of the Death of Two More — Jessica Drawbond-Page

April 4, 2004: Two Shiite Muslim followers of militant Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr are killed early in the day after throwing themselves in front of American tanks during a demonstration in Baghdad.


If it happened
as it was written
to the daughter of Zion,

he came into Jerusalem
riding on a colt.

And the people cried out
so the stones didn’t have to,

and they covered His path
with their cloaks,
still moist with perspiration,

and with leaves
from the sun.

And in between shouts of ecstasy
and relief
that the world might at last become whole

the sigh
of the waving of palm fronds
could be heard

and the light crunching,
like the breaking of crackers,
under the colt’s feet.


Two millennia
and four years later
on Palm Sunday

in Baghdad,
534 miles

two men
their cloaks

rising and bowing
in the warm wind
of the morning.

As they hear
the approach of the cavalry,
they sigh deeply,

wanting to release all doubt,
and throw their bodies down
on the path of the Abrams tank

that makes the earth shudder,
and makes the stones shake,
and hurries the pulse of each man

crying out
to God
so the soldiers will know.

And in between shouts of ecstasy
and horror,
the wind through the palms

can be heard
and the wet grinding
of human bodies,

like the breaking
of crackers
in uncertain hands.

September 12th — Scott Creley

September 12th, 2001
after X.J. Kennedy

The bodies falling from the towers
could be coins flipping end over end
through black smoke water,
could be hard blurry rain piercing
carbon saturated clouds to bounce off of
the pavement and shatter.
Could be anything but people
choosing the ground instead of the fire.

Later that night, near cable airport,
I sit will on the hood
of my Lincoln and marvel
that the sky is empty of airplanes.
I will think that the silence is starved
for the roar of a rotary engine
churning through thin frozen air,

But that night, out in the black,
There are only the dewy afterimages
of satellites weaving in and out
of ghost-story constellations.

Although I cannot see it,
I will know those dim, blinking lights
are howling back digital echoes
of all those people plunging earthward,
a hard rain of ones and zeros,
so absent of the merciful grace
of leaves shaken from a tree,
of a paper airplane swooping low,
of ash drifting to rest on rooftops.

Teaching Training 9/11 [An excerpt from Teacher at Point Blank] from Aunt Lute BooksJo Scott-Coe

Before school on September 11, 2001, bad AM radio in my car in the parking lot blares what everyone else is hearing or has already heard: The World Trade Center towers. They’re down. Oh my God. It’s confirmed.
There’s a stunned, quiet quality to the morning as faculty pass each other outside buildings and in corridors, whisper or turn away shaking our heads. There’s latent, disturbing excitement as well: Will something else happen? Will a building, a bomb, a plane explode somewhere in L.A.? During the morning’s first class, one of my freshmen bursts in wearing a red, white and blue tank top (perhaps selected as her mother listened to the news?). She whoops, arms held up over her head, cheerleader style: “Yeah! U–S–A!”
“Stop,” I say as she flops into her desk. “It’s not a football game.”
I can’t exactly blame her for not knowing how to show she takes the tragedy seriously. Many students seem extra watchful for cues from us, yet this sad and scary morning, no direction is forthcoming from the central administration, from any unified body of adults. It occurs to me how, almost twenty years earlier, I had been scratching notes in Government class when our principal’s voice came across the intercom to briefly acknowledge the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Today there are no sober announcements, no moments of silence. All of us seem wandering as if expecting a divine, or at least official, voice to name the moment. By the next day, someone suggests we assemble students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance outside, under the campus flag. Everyone is encouraged to wear red, white and blue to show unity. I suggest black. Some of us do wear black. []

Ah, That the World Could Be L.A. — John Brantingham

Instead of taking roll every morning,
I ask my students a question of the day,
and this morning’s question is what

other time period would they have liked
to have lived in. It’s a fairly banal question,
but they have fun with it, especially

a group of four friends sitting in the back
who all say they wished they could be
a part of the Crusades. When it’s Sepehr’s

turn, my one Persian student, he turns
to them and in a fist shaking parody
of what we see presented in movies

and on television, he says “I would
like to live during the Crusades too.”
This is the Los Angeles I’m so in love with.

The ones sitting in the back were serious
about wanting to Crusade, and maybe
Sepehr’s answer was only half joking,

but the Middle East is the Middle East,
and it’s as far away as it could be,
and they all like Sepehr, and in fact

in the class, Ben, a conservative Jew is
Sepehr’s closest friend, and the two leave
the classroom later talking about their

weekend plans. Perhaps, LA is as vanilla
and plastic as the world says it is,
and maybe out here we’ve lost touch

with the traditional values of the East,
but in the end, I believe I’d take this peace
over that kind of authenticity every single time.


A Year — Lloyd Aquino

The night I turned twenty-one, I hid behind a locked door and toilet
and cried harder than I had at my grandfather’s funeral two years earlier.
Voices on the other side were saying sorry but plans had to change
and they hoped I understood that I would be going to Tahoe without them.
My sister somehow found her way inside our parents’ bathroom,
putting arms around me. I couldn’t stop crying.
The recording of my voice on loop, the play button stuck in place,
the frequency only I could hear. Saying things that hurt like only truth could.

Things fell apart the first and only time I’ve fallen in love.
The day the power went out at Cal Poly, the girl got her hands around
my heart, lungs, throat, then squeezed until viscera ran down her wrists.
She did it with a simple sentence: I hope my boyfriend’s dad is okay.
Then she did it again and again, a little gentler each time
or maybe every inch of my body just grew accustomed to the sensation.
Once with a guitar. Once with a pickup truck on the Fourth of July.
Once on the day I drank snakebite and shook her boyfriend’s hand.
Then I tried to find God in a library cubicle, but he wasn’t there.
He wasn’t at the bottom of an empty bottle either, not the day
I drank alone because the mountains were whiter than I’d ever seen,
not the night I passed out laughing at my sister’s disgust
on our parents’ front lawn. God wasn’t in the toilet either,
no matter how much I screamed for him, the echo chamber
making me nauseous. I let my hair grow out from winter to summer
and hid from every camera. I spun my car out entering the 57,
cursed it the whole way from Diamond Bar to Chino the day the transmission blew
and I couldn’t afford a tow truck, wanted nothing more than to beat it
with a bat the day after it saved my life on the 60 freeway.
I punched a few walls. The day of my father’s birthday I told the girl I loved
how that felt in a letter left on a windshield and didn’t see her again
for three weeks. I parked my new used car and shut the garage door.
Left the engine on, turned the radio up, and screamed.
I told myself later it was all an accident.

The morning I turned twenty-two, I wore a black shirt sleeve sewn shut
on one end to hide the last bad haircut I ever paid for. I walked on tiptoe
the exact minute my mother gave birth after nineteen hours of labor
so as not to wake her. I turned on the television and kept the volume low.
I never turned on the television in the morning. A building fell,
and I thought of Las Vegas and demolition.

I only saw the second plane. Then the afterimages.

The day I turned twenty-two, people were apologetic in one breath,
then insistent in the next on celebration. I opened presents in front of the television.
Talking heads on loop, the on button stuck in place, a frequency
everyone wanted to hear even though it hurt. There was cake and too many hands
squeezing my shoulder, meaning reassurance, only causing muscles to spasm.
I walked out to be alone and studied the empty California sky.
And for the first time in a year, I thought of something other than myself.

  3 Responses to ““Today, We are all Americans””

  1. in a moment
    flash of time – turn a corner
    never to return

  2. All wonderful expressions of personal loss at a time of such public loss. Good on ya.

  3. I never know how exactly I feel about any of this. The only thing ever is just to keep going on openly and directly.

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