Lament for the World

Writer  Nora Gallagher shares a poem she wrote while in residency at Blue Mountain Center during September 11th, 2001. 

This poem was written at the Blue Mountain Center in Adirondack State Park, a writers and artists colony on a small private lake. We had no television. The morning of September 11, someone called us, and then someone else turned on a radio in the main lodge kitchen. Andrew Ginzel, one of the artists, was not with us. He had returned to New York over the weekend to teach a class. His studio is on Bleecker Street. Andrew heard the first plane come over Manhattan as he was sipping tea at his desk. Then he heard the explosion. He got on his bike and rode down to Battery Park to find out what was going on. There he witnessed much more than anyone should ever have to see. He returned to us that night, late, driving out of Manhattan, watching the convoys of military vehicles, police, and ambulances driving in. In the morning, he told us his story. Having not seen any of the TV images, Andrew’s account was the first I had heard in any detail. That was the first day I cried. Later, Andrew counted out five thousand grains of rice (I later changed the number in the poem) and placed them in a basket on our dining table. They stayed there for the rest of the session.

Lament for the World

Andrew has made you into grains of rice
all three thousand
and placed you in a basket as if to shield you from the flames

He asks at breakfast how something so large as those towers
could stop existing, holding his coffee cup, turning it, around
and around as if half expecting it to implode in his palm

A dead fish rises from the lake this morning, gills spread,
white skin, it floats in the dark water,
the slow kill of acid rain

Everywhere we are ruined, our towers fall
into a dust of memos, plaintive notes
all life suspended falling

How could something so intricate, so cleverly built,
so beloved as a body, as a fish
cease to be

– Nora Gallagher

Used by Permission. From American Writers Respond,  edited by William Heyen, published by Etruscan Press, 2001.

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