Haiku on September 11

Publish date:

the poet's grave eludes uscrow and dried rosesa blue sky to rememberleaves papers ash drift ***faint whiffs of distant smokecrickets on stone walls ***in the cannon's muzzlea spider's web ***a siren on the turnpikemilking time is soon ***tributes on a chain-link fence

I read Robert's posts about haiku here and here, as well as Michael Dylan Welch's comments, with great interest. I've tried haiku in the past, knew I failed, and have also felt "fearful" about trying again. I'm intrigued by everything that goes into writing a true haiku, including saying more with less.

In e-mailing back and forth about an article for the 2009 Poet's Market, Michael and I discussed this fear a bit. I promised Michael I would seriously attempt haiku and post a few here at Poetic Asides.

I realized there was no more challenging subject about which to say more with less than the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I experienced September 11, 2001 in a very peripheral way--literally. That morning my mother and I were in Gettysburg, having spent the night en route to a few days in Amish country. We were actually blissfully unaware of the attacks as we searched for Marianne Moore's grave in Evergreen Cemetery and contemplated the beautiful, peaceful scene in the Valley of Death from Little Round Top.

It wasn't until we stopped at an antique mall halfway to York that we first heard what had happened. In shock, we immediately started back to Ohio. With Washington so close to the south, there was a special urgency in the radio reports we were listening to. In one of the rest stations on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we overheard plenty of discussion of the New York part of the tragedy, as people wandered with cell phones to their ears, absorbed in agitated conversations, their eyes wide with fear and confusion.

And, as we sped through Somerset County within miles of Shanksville, we passed emergency equipment heading east, lights flashing, although Flight 93 had gone down hours before.

In 2002, on our way home from the Dodge Poetry Festival, we made a detour off the turnpike to visit the Flight 93 memorial. It was only a year and week later; a mood of requiem was still strong--at the festival, in the small towns of New Jersey, and in Pennsylvania.

It's definitely a challenge to distill all that into captured moments; to forego the emotions, the intensity of the memories, the politics, the impulse to comment at length and memorialize. But I said I'd try, so here they are--my haiku for September 11 (attempted):

bone-white stones


clear September day

soft yellow showers

stillness on Round Top

cows and goldenrod

field in late summer

grass conceals the scars


P.S.Here's a moving piece about an artist's musical response to 9/11.

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