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3 Poems “Remembering 9/11” by Joanie HF Zosike

Joanie HF Zosike


“Day After Labored Day…A Riff on 9/11”

September 7, 2014, NYC

Thirteen years later, that
odor still lingers in the air
The weight of necrotic tissue
pulls at fevered feet, pulls us
downtown through recalcitrant

Visitors splash in memory pools
pose for cameras with hip-hop hands
and goofy smiles. Burnt orange odor
lingers. Folks from Iowa testify about
grief, sleeplessness, PTSD since 9/11—

She calls us to the island’s edge
Beckons with burnt bird fingers
A statuesque silver spire primps
Clings to spirits and strangers
while the echo of the enchanted

Philippe danced, ran and risked
Because he was Petit, privileged
to risk. He did it just because, and paid
a fine of a penny for each floor, while
a yet-to-come day would offer worker

9/11/01, 8:46am: Lives sucked into
lack of atmosphere, lack of answers
Everything stops. Oh, shit! of news,
uncensored. Soma plumes, birds of
paper and corpse, summary judgment

She keeps calling, Meet me at
the SW corner, the NE entry,
where the pools eye each other
and wink at the circle of patriotic
trees; their bark barking survivor

Uniformed guards mouth script
Were they there? Did they get dusted
as did sweat-stained first responders?
Did they guide avenging brigades to
arid unknown-wheres, dispensing

Whodunnit? tower asks. It’s a mystery
She smolders alluringly in our nostrils
grips our organically fermented guts
devours our poisoned, malignant livers
steals the shivers of troubled sleep

rest for birds, homeless, unnamed heroes-
turned-warriors, who follow the leader
armed services trained to react with rage,
blame smashing a military response
dispensing a river of awesome shock

Who really knows what happened?
Pebbles? Chalk bones on nearby roofs?
Towering aspirations of gold standards?
Patriotic spittle unexamined, given favor?
Children, tomorrow’s dancers on wires?
Who killed the towering spires


“In the Aftermath”

September 24, 2001, New York City

Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us to understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong”, we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
 – Susan Sontag, The New Yorker, September 24, 2001

A list of missed opportunities:
The poem not written
The hand not held
The song not sung
The laundry left undone
Dream of peace un-won

The moment of possible
transcendence has passed
replaced by war cries:
Smoke them out of their holes
$15 Twin Towers salt shakers
T-shirts of exploding buildings

Missed, misled, and further
mystified, with no knowledge of
history, shuttled from side to side
entreated to bless a Holy War

God scoffs. She will not stoop
to comment on such idiocy
for acts of war have nothing
in common with anything divine


“Raw Testimony”

February 19, 2018

They used to make me angry
The twin schmucks, my brother
called them. They stood erect
and proud in the harbor, showing
macho steel and muscle of money,
an affluent paean to capitalism

Give me your assets, your riches
We’re bigger than other ‘scrapers
Our competitors are our bitches
America, fuck-yeah, we’re rapers
Our haughtiness towers above ya’all
We’re loftier, so we hold you in thrall

They used to make me so angry
I would curse when I caught sight
of their sky-tickling arrogance
glittering in the sun, piercing clouds
They were majestic, simplistic, acted
like they were all of that, and more

I resented that self-importance, could
only imagine how visitors were, in turn,
wowed and repulsed. The peacetime
version of shock and awe. Wonderful.
Formidable. Fancy. Peacock proud.
Oh, the hubris. They were ridiculous.

Until that fateful day when America
went into PTSD and froze forevermore.
Then, from 2nd Avenue and 5th Street,
I stood looking downtown and saw the
two fragile towers, like a stack of pathetic
pancakes, go down in chemicals and dust.

My first thought was, All those lives.
Goodness has died. All those lives.
Puffs, snuffed. I, a voyeur in my own city.
The sirens never stopped singing, all
the vehicles were pressed into service
to the undeniable catastrophe. I feared.

Whatever was happening was somehow
a result of their existence, and the reach
of their privilege, and the anger, and the
suspected corruption, and instigation and
conspiracy theory. Dead relatives, friends,
death in the skies. Alas, poor schmucks.



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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