≡ Menu

The Missing

Their silence keeps me sleepless for I know
Within that smoke their ash still falls as snow,
To settle on our flesh like fading stars
Dissolve into sharp sparks at break of day.

At dawn a distant shudder in the earth
Disclosed the flight of fire into steel,
The shaking not of subways underground,
But screams from inside flowers made of flame.

We stood upon the Heights like men of straw
Transfixed by flames that started in the sky,
And watched them plunging down in death’s ballet
Too far removed to hear their falling cry.

By noon that band of smoke loomed low
Upon the harbor’s skin and made us gasp;
A hand of smoke that in its curdled crawl
Kept reaching to extend its lethal grasp.

The harp strung bridge held up ten thousand souls
Who’d screaming run beneath the paws of death,
Like dusted ghosts that lived but were not sure
If they lived in light or only for a breath.

They’d writhed and spun within that storm of smoke
And stumbled out to light and clearer air,
To find upon the river’s further shore
No sanctuary other than despair.

The sirens scraped the sky and jets carved arcs
Within a heaven empty of all hope,
That marked its epicenter with one streak
Of black on polished bone where silver’d stood.

By evening all their ash had settled so
That on the leaves outside my window glowed
Their souls in small bright stars until the rain
Cleaned all of what could not be clean again.

We breathed that smoke that bent and crawled.
We learned to hate that smoke that lingered so.
We knew that blood could only answer blood,
And so we yearned to go but not to go.

Within that city shrines were our resolve.
We placed them where our grief would best anneal.
Upon our walls and trees their faces loomed
To gaze at us from time beyond repeal.

Their last lost summer faded into ash.
Their faces faded into name scratched stones.
Our years flowed into endless desert seas
Where warplanes prowled in search of bones.

In time their smoke and ash became but words
In stories told at dinner, told by rote,
Or in the comments made by magazines
For whom the “larger issues” were of note.

In time their faces faded with the rains,
The little altars thick with wax were scraped,
But still beneath clear plastic they endure
Reminding us that we have not escaped.

Their silence keeps me sleepless for I know.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Howard Nelson September 13, 2017, 7:08 AM

    A tangent on a borrowing, may you please?

    “Our years flowed into endless desert seas”
    Across hate-seared sand, so sere.
    Still, we thirsty seeds of freedom dear,
    Yearn for Spirit’s life-line — to reach, to learn, to seize.

  • Jaynie September 16, 2018, 4:45 AM

    Heartbreaking and majestic. Horrifying, 9/11. Enough horror to go around on that day. Too bad the horror of our nation’s division and mortal injuries that have followed on that day threaten to catch up to that of 9/11.

    I remember the deep blue, cloudless, sky on 9/11/01. Gorgeous Indian Summer day.
    I would learn about the savagery at a supermarket checkout line out in Cape Cod.
    Far, far, removed from the physical experience.
    I did shudder once at the thought of the arc of history having Islam somehow bring down America and of how that people treat women. The fear passed, however, my thinking that America was not that far gone that she could be destroyed in that way ….

  • Jaynie September 16, 2018, 4:57 AM

    May the souls of those murdered that day by deranged Islam rest in the peace of our Lord in heaven.

    I remember starting the day by the shore, rollerblading. Then, hearing of the murderous attack, once back home one of the first things I saw on the Internet, another part of the diabolic plan, was the assasination of the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Massoud. I had another shudder at the size and scope of the thing.

    Really do appreciate your memorial pieces, GVL.

  • Howard Nelson September 16, 2018, 7:35 AM

    A worthy elegy, Gerard,
    Some say we are made of stardust and forget that we are distinguished by Spirit; but you remember,

  • ghostsniper September 16, 2018, 2:08 PM

    They won.

    • Dirk September 11, 2021, 1:38 PM

      Ghost, please define “ They”


      • EX-Californian Pete September 11, 2021, 3:23 PM

        I second that question. WHO “won” and what did they win?
        You can lose a battle and still win the war.

      • ghostsniper September 11, 2021, 5:54 PM

        Ask George W Bush who “they” are.
        (they is the same as them)
        Remember when Bush said: “We fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.”
        Well they are here now, but “We have not yet begun to fight.” (some famous dood sed that)

  • Klaus September 11, 2019, 4:39 PM

    They have not! They are wining though I’ll give you that….

  • rabbit tobacco September 11, 2019, 8:54 PM

    I have often thought of the guy sitting at his desk
    on that fateful day, and something tells him to look
    out the window, just as the plane takes him out.

  • Mike Marchand September 12, 2020, 10:15 AM

    A eulogy worthy of Tennyson, and were we an intelligent culture this would be just as celebrated.

  • LadyBikki September 11, 2021, 1:27 PM

    In Hawaii at 4 am, a call from our eldest daughter in Colorado.
    Our youngest daughter in Virginia, in class with children whose parents were at the Pentagon.
    We watched in horror, hour after hour, knowing this was the end of so many things.
    And the beginning.
    Still soul blasted and horrified, I’ve not healed.
    I never will.

  • gwbnyc September 11, 2021, 1:29 PM

    In the neighborhood was a crazy woman, thin, diminutive, sometimes dressed as kind of a Girl Guide with a Smokey the Bear hat and blowing (not playing) a trumpet, or as a sort-of crossing guard. For years.

    That morning so many people gathered to give blood at St Vincent’s hospital the line circled the block formed by 7th Avenue, W12th Street, 6th Avenue, and W11th. At a point the hospital staff announced that if you knew your blood type, go to a particular place on the street for that type and line up there. It was confusing. I looked up the block to W11th and 7th Avenue, and I’ll be damned if that crazy woman, in her Smokey the Bear hat, wasn’t directing people to the correct lines.

  • Dirk September 12, 2021, 7:32 AM

    Ask bush???. I wouldn’t piss on bush if he were on fire. Let that corrupt cabal member burn, let him scream in agony, let the world here his last words begging for gods mercy.

    Na I see the truth, I don’t need to ask a sole.


  • Anonymous September 12, 2022, 11:35 AM

    and this is tomorrow.