A 9/11 poem: The Long Trip

When the events of September 11, 2001 happened, I was as angry as the next guy. So angry I couldn’t begin to put thoughts down in writing even if I wanted to. In the days, weeks, months that followed, it seemed “the thing to do” was to write a poem based on 9/11. I declined. I declined and declined for many years. What could I say that hadn’t already been said?

At the 10-year anniversary there came a competition, which jump-started me into action. I didn’t win the competition, and after laying the poem to rest for a few months and then coming back to it, I understood why. So I revised. This is the result. I still can’t be sure I said anything new. It was first published in MiPOesias in 2012.


Home. I don’t pretend to see
The anticipation, the feeling
of leaving a near-death world stewing
in destruction, leaving for my wife
waiting with a kid I may not know.

It must be some older estranged sister
to the final hour of an all day road trip, bearing down
in an acidic barrel of butterflies and joy: the long trip

Home. My young child tells me of his Islamic hate
because of its crimes against Hindus
almost a century ago, so I crack open a country
divided, here, now, based on a similar belief system:
intolerant Americans attack as if the real terrorists
are their next-door neighbors, though no one on either side
of the aisle has reduced buildings and human beings to bits.

The train travels both ways, but the ride to tolerance
is never smooth. The long trip

Home. Comfort feels its vulnerability.
A decade ago I had cash left over after the bills were paid;
discretionary spending morphed into an art form.
But my security blanket has been boxed up
for the long cold season to come. Facing foreclosure
is not a pink sunset. The money tree doesn’t exist. The long trip

Home. I was at her office that clear blue morning
four planes brought a world together.
In her third trimester, we walked all those blocks
under a city shrouded in silence, slowly making our way
into an unstable existence, stumbling into the surreal
apartment, our family, our friends witnessing black fear
pour from two tall buildings, before

the TV read us a different poem.
It was in the ash of disbelief
that the country contemplated the long trip

Home — an odyssey begun in a second
decade since that lovely blue sky mourning.