‘Twenty years since,’ a poem about the aftermath of 9/11

‘Twenty years since,’ a poem about the aftermath of 9/11
A light display shines from where the World Trade Center used to be, New York, Sept. 11. Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton.

The poem “Twenty years since” by Samira Sadeque is presented as part of the ALL ARTS initiative “The First Twenty,” which surveys how the first 20 years of the 21st century have affected American art, culture and the collective consciousness.

“Twenty years since” by Samira Sadeque commemorates the 20th anniversary of 9/11

On May 28, 2002, the last steel column from the Twin Towers rubble recovery was cut down, after 37 weeks of clearing efforts by operating engineers, laborers, ironworkers, dock builders and teamsters. Joe Bradley, 57, who was among the workers present to mark the ending of this effort, said, “We came in as individuals, and we’ll walk out together.”

Twenty years since

there isn’t a calendar date that has not been soaked
in fumes        debris            grief.

In the air sometimes, still hangs the phone calls
from halfway out of a flight, the falling man, flyers
for the Missing Have you seen my daddy?
Please, help us!
the scribbled Name and Contact Information on the arms of the men,
lest they, too, get swallowed trying to clear what remained
of the fury of the dragon’s mouth, trying to bring home

fathers

to their daughters

to their sons

to their children’s rooms.

In the aftermath, the smoke lasted
at first hours        then days        then weeks,     months, years

In the aftermath, the cameras showed running men and women
becoming smoke before they became a Missing Person, a funeral
without a body, a ghost of a journal entry

In the aftermath, the men saw ghosts, they said, they were sure
but they remained, despite
the ghosts,    despite the fumes of
the aftermath    couldn’t swallow the men who soaked their arms,
deep in debris, in the hopes of bringing

fathers

to their daughters

to their sons

to their children’s rooms.

The aftermath persisted, didn’t let a city fall asleep, made a wife wish
the day wouldn’t end lest it take away her last memory.

Far away in New Mexico, a blacksmith welded oil and metal
to remind the fallen they will always be remembered,
to remind us what the sky couldn’t take away that day
not a chance against what the people brought:

makeshift clinics and makeshift hopes
to remind us how the men and women unbecame smoke
to become strength, bones regrowing through the map of a city
that refused to be shaken, the widows
who still chose to hope, the sky that did not stop turning blue

morning

after morning

after morning

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Top Image: A light display shines from where the World Trade Center used to be, New York, Sept. 11. Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton.