Archives for category: LANDMARKS

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Battle Tourism
by Will Reger

Nothing left to do with a battlefield
but remember and celebrate it.

Turn it into a park and invite the nation
to come buy a t-shirt and postcards.

Wander around wondering…
Are these the same guns
that tore bodies open
in bursts of fire, smoke and iron?

Is this the same gentle lawn
where the dead contorted
as they emptied?

Which of these nice people
in chinos and polo shirts can see
what I see?

The lamps of pain
going out, one by one, because there is
nothing left to do.

PHOTO: Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi (National Park Service photo).

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863) was the final major military action in the Vicksburg campaign of the American Civil War (1861-1865). In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Mississippi into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, and General Grant decided to besiege the city. After holding out for more than forty days, with their supplies nearly gone, the garrison admitted defeat. The Confederate surrender on July 4, 1863 is sometimes considered, when combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg the previous day, the turning point of the war.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem reflects my thoughts on visiting battlefield parks (Shiloh, Tennessee, and Vicksburg, Mississippi).

PHOTO: Will Reger, Vicksburg Battlefield, Mississippi (2018).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Will Reger has published poetry since 2010. He is currently the Poet Laureate for the City of Urbana, Illinois.  His first full volume of poetry is Petroglyphs (2019).  Many of his published poems are archived at www.twitter.com/wmreger.  His writing process begins with a pair of words or sometimes a question from a dream that sparks a response.  Building on these prompts, he works until a narrative emerges and guides him to finish the poem.

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War Musket Grass (Bay of Fundy)
by Donna Allard

I see no soldier’s uniform as I walk along these shores
but fresh blood cliffs, musket grass,
and a labyrinth of our relics,
the unfolding of this puzzle to figure out a broader picture,
as rose clashed with la fleur de lys…
like an arcanum shared by a friend
who said to follow water trails
like a pirate in search of a chest, as magnet speaks closer to sand …
He said many have found treasures under the sheet of their own graves.
Yet I favour its peaceful clay to dyed denim & origin,
as I connect with those who fell for their flower & sleep inside
this bay of mud.
Today, hooves flit in Fundy sun,
safe & watchful over my eyes,
and I wonder if that story was ever passed to their offspring,
since man conquers on a saddle.
Come walk with me, sense a presence, their memory
dancing with tides, like a final oratory
along red cliffs & grassy shores.
Let me retreat from time & fog, as I fear ghosts & bellwalkers,
they swear the land still smells of powder.

Herbes, simulacres de mousquets (Baie de Fundy)
par Donna Allard

Aucun uniforme en vue le long de ce rivage,
le regard se contente de falaises couleur sang, d’herbes,
simulacres de mousquets,
d’un labyrinthe de reliques ;
la floraison de cette énigme pour mieux se figurer l’image,
au moment où la rose écorcha la fleur de lys…
comme un arcane soufflé par les lèvres amicales
qui nous invite à suivre les traces de la mer,
tel un pirate à la recherche d’un coffre, tant bien l’aimant
se réveille dans le sable…
Que de trésors à débusquer sous les draps scintillants
du cimetière marin lance-t-il à tout vent.
Mais je favorise l’argile teinter de paix le jean et l’origine,
comme j’amarre mon âme à celle de ceux tombés pour une fleur,
enracinés depuis dans cette baie de boue.

Aujourd’hui les sabots batifolent sous le soleil de Fundy,
hors de danger & bienveillants ;
je me demande si leurs aïeuls leur ont raconté cette histoire,
tant l’homme s’accapare le monde monté sur une selle.
Viens te promener avec moi, sens cette présence,
leur mémoire danser parmi les vagues, ce requiem d’éloquence
le long des falaises vermeilles & bord de mer fardé de vert.

Laisse moi me retirer de la brume & du temps,
tant je redoute fantômes & présages ;
tous jurent que ce bout de nouveau
mon desent encore a poudre.

PHOTO: Sandstone formations, Bay of Fundy, Canada, by Maurizio DeMattei, used by permission. The Bay of Fundy lies between two Canadian provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755) took place in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada, during the French and Indian War when the British ordered the Expulsion of Acadians (French-speaking descendants of French settlers loyal to France). Approximately 7,000 Acadians were deported to the colonies. Many ended up in what was then French-colonized Louisiana. The name “Acadian” evolved to Cajun.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a landmark poem about the French and British civil war fought along the Fundy coastline of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. Beautiful area with fields of tall grass that sway forever into night and where cows linger with their young. One day we were taking a drive and stopped here…you could feel the history and I wondered if the cows ever passed down to their calves the ancestral accounts of those times…the land still smells of powder…”War Musket Grass” changed my writing career when it won first place for the Canadian Poetry Association.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I took this photo at the Bay of Fundy during the Canadian Poetry Association LitFest I organized. Poets from around the world attended…and a curious bunch, too.

canadian poet Donna Allard

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A peaceful purdyesque writer, Donna Allard’s most recent book Cold Fire is short-listed for the 2020 Miramichi Reader’s “The Very Best Book Award” published by SkyWing Press 2019. On Apr 28, 2014, she accepted the position on the Canada Cuban Literary Alliance: Honorary member of the CCLA by Poet Laureate & President Richard Grove. In August 2019, she accepted the title of International Beat Poet Laureate, Canada, from the National Beat Poetry Foundation Inc., Connecticut, USA. She now curates the “Canadian Beat Scene (CBS)” and CBS publishing. She resides in Aldouane, New Brunswick, on a 1909 farmstead, down a long dirt road…

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The Observatory at Penobscot Narrows
by Susanna Baird

The only tower of its kind in the country. The tallest tower of its kind in the world.

I step into the elevator alone, am the most and least of everything as I rise until I stop, until I step towards thick glass to look over miles at sights the signs say I see that I can’t see through the drizzle.

With sunlight, the views might be cinematic: the river town, the granite foothills explosively disrupted to introduce the holiday road, the trees and the trees and the trees, the mountains I can’t find for the fog. The most favorite thing I can’t see is the restaurant the guard shows me used to be right down there, in that pressed dirt half circle that looks like a driveway. Can you see where it was?

There the camera people paused, ate lobster rolls for dinner, drank an extra bottle of beer, signed postcards with the waitress’s pen. But for time they are me, distinguished in this place for not being home, for driving through blasted rock, for stopping short of a bridge just shy of a town, hoping for ground clouds to scatter.

PHOTO: The Penobscot Narrows Bridge (Maine) by Demerzel21, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Penobscot Narrows Bridge is a 2,120-foot cable-stayed bridge that carries US 1/SR 3 over the Penobscot River and connects Verona Island, Maine, to the town of Prospect. The bridge is home to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, the first bridge observation tower in the United States and the tallest public bridge observatory in the world, with a tower 420 feet high.  Located on the Maine coast, 20 miles south of Bangor, Penobscot Narrows Observatory opened to the general public in May 2007. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’m afraid of heights, and often need to tackle height-related activities alone. When my family visited this impressive tower, on a bridge spanning Maine’s Penobscot River, I waited until my husband and daughter went up and came down, then fought fear as I rode alone in the elevator. The view up top was reduced due to a fog, but I still felt grateful for having made the trip, and for that particular headspace you enter when you are apart from “real” life, when you feel deeply impressed by “only” and “tallest” in a way you don’t when enmeshed in your everyday. The best part came when the guard told me about the restaurant that wasn’t there anymore. It was a small, lovely gift, the moment that most remains with me from that experience. This summer, I am missing being a tourist farther from home, but enjoying local day trips I never before took the time to make.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susanna Baird lives in the tourist town of Salem, Massachusetts, and is fascinated by tourist headspace. She serves as administrative editor of Talking Writing and as co-chair of the Authors Committee of the Salem Literary Festival, and leads a fiction and memoir writing group. She also helps run The Clothing Connection, a small nonprofit getting clothes to Salem kids who need them. When not writing or reading, she likes hiking with her dog, napping with her cat, and goofing off with her family. Find Susanna online at susannabaird.com (check out her occasional microblog, x100!) and on Twitter @susannabaird.

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Separated by the Bay Bridge
by Gerard Sarnat

and often relative
competitors (e.g., chess)
since fifth grade

we sometimes kissing
cousins lived across
Maple Drive from

each other when
our kin (my mother,
his dad) were close

then enhanced
that family intimacy
over next fleeting

six-plus decades
as well as generations
of grand/kids

spending random free
time, vacations, every
Thanksgiving together

even if meeting required
driving long distances
or flying above oceans.

Myriad MDs in our clan
could be counted on to
weigh in to assure during

difficult illnesses,
cancer hadn’t spread to
chest/ lungs etcetera.

But nowadays, although
basically only separated
by the Bay Bridge

more frequently than not
proves beyond our ken
how you or I can manage

various mid-septuagenarian
stuff enough to find ways
or means one or another

of us will finagle what it takes
to travel a bit for those such
very sustaining group hugs.

PHOTO: Oakland Bay Bridge (California) by Rich Hay on Unsplash

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gerard Sarnat won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for a handful of recent Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. He is widely published in academic-related journals (e.g., Universities of Chicago/ Maine/ San Francisco/Toronto, Stanford, Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Pomona, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, Penn, Dartmouth, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Baltimore) plus national (e.g., Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Northampton Poetry Review, Peauxdunque Review, MiPOesias, American Journal Of Poetry, Kurt Vonnegut Museum Library Literary Journal, South Broadway Press, Parhelion, Clementine, pamplemousse, Red Wheelbarrow, Deluge, Poetry Quarterly, poetica, Tipton Journal, Hypnopomp, Free State Review, Poetry Circle, Buddhist Poetry Review, Poets And War, Thank You For Your Service Anthology, Wordpeace, Lowestoft Chronicle, 2020 International Human Rights Art Festival, Indolent Books, Snapdragon, Pandemonium Press, Boston Literary Magazine, Montana Mouthful, Arkansas Review, Texas Review, San Antonio Review, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Brooklyn Review, pacific REVIEW, San Francisco Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Fiction Southeast, The New York Times, Review Berlin, London Reader, Voices Israel, Foreign Lit, New Ulster, Oslo Griffel, Transnational, Southbank, Wellington Street Review, and Rome Lotus-Eaters. He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles: From Abraham to Burning Man (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). A physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO, he is currently devoting energy/ resources to deal with climate change justice. Married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons, he is looking forward to future granddaughters. Visit him at gerardsarnat.com.

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The Viaduct of Madrid
by Anita Haas

The first time I saw you, illuminated
in your evening glory, I had lost my way. Running
up Toledo Street, hurrying
to meet a friend in Plaza Mayor, I rounded
the wrong corner and you commanded, “Stop!
Forget your silly worries! Look at me!”

Noble eagle, servile slave, you stretch your spine, crook
your elbows, bow your head. Your shoulders carry
a load of heedless traffic, pressing on you from one
set of fingers buried in the Moorish quarter
to the other, in opulent parks and palaces,
your wingspan – your yoke – bridging two worlds, and
– your back to the city – you look down
            on crumbling walls that once protected the town,
            on a park dedicated to its founder, an emir of Muslim Córdoba,
            on travelers passing through you like a gate,
            on the Segovia road, once a creek, the banks of which
housed the earliest settlers.

You shelter the homeless, watch helplessly
as the desperate leap from your shoulders, their ghosts
staring stunned at the spots where their bodies hit road.

Like a medieval fortress, stone steps race up
and down your slopes like beetles, resting on tree-shrouded
landings, where lovers tryst, and photographers snipe
at infinite angles, each frame bathed
in unique light, and cradled by arms
dressed in foliage.

War once crippled your mighty columns
Yet still you arch and gleam majestic
like a dancer, frozen in an ecstatic olé.

PHOTO: Segovia Viaduct, Madrid, Spain, by Miguel Braulio.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Segovia Viaduct is a concrete bridge in Madrid, Spain. The location was previously the site of an iron bridge built in 1874. Sixty years later, in 1934, a concrete bridge, similar to the one that stands today, replaced it — and, during the 1970s, the site was refurbished and expanded, but the basic design remained the same.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anita Haas is a differently abled, award-winning Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems and fiction in both English and Spanish. Her poetry has appeared in Quantum Leap, River Poets Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Vox Poetica, Verse Virtual, Wink, Songs of Eretz, Parody Magazine, and Founder’s Favourites. She spends her free time watching films, and enjoying tapas and flamenco with her writer husband and two cats.

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Continent’s Edge
by Jeanine Stevens

Imagine a shoreline, its own salty foam.
Not by Muir Beach or Shelter Cove
but just beyond Red Hawk Casino—gold country:
scrub oaks and ghost pines.
Granite outcrops and below, ocean floor basalt,
marl‘s crumbly clay, shell fragments.
This is Wakamatsu Colony (1869), Japanese
farmers attempting to grow silk, tea trees, rice.
Where are the dwellings, bamboo groves?
Someone would know, perhaps
a grad student researching ancestry.
Near the trail, buttercups, vetch, Rat Tail radish
(a delicacy in Asia). I nibble spicy pods.
Streambeds dry, few miners’ flakes remain.
You may discover garnets in your shallow pan.
Over the foot bridge, simple joy
to walk planks: bounce, sponge, lift.
Tides, first sensory,
something of womb, suck
pull back—thrum tide.
Under a perigee moon, I wonder if bedrock
heaves, upends remains of shellfish?
Behind the electric fence, a Jersey mother has tender eyes.
Long time since I’ve been close to such
a large mammal, her heat shimmering,
dancing in amber sun.

Two identical calves recline,
slowly munching meadow grass.

PHOTO: Wakamatsu Farm in 2019, its 150th year, by Ken Mahar.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony was made up of a group of 22 samurai and one woman during the Boshin Civil War (1868–69) in Japan preceding the Meiji Restoration. This is believed to be the first permanent Japanese settlement in North America and the only settlement by samurai outside of Japan. The group purchased land from Charles Graner family in the Gold Hill region after coming to San Francisco in 1869. Though the group successfully displayed it produce during the 1869 California State Agricultural Fair in Sacramento and the 1870 Horticultural Fair in San Francisco, the farm as a Japanese colony only existed from 1869-1871. In 1969, the year of the colony’s centennial, it was proclaimed California Historical Landmark No. 815. The American River Conservancy purchased the 272-acre location, 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, in November 2010, with the National Park Service placing the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

PHOTO: Historical marker at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, Placerville, California.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I write in natural settings, it is usually a pattern of walk, stop, listen, and write, then begin again. This goes back to sixth grade and our bird walks every Friday afternoons. The poem “Continents Edge” was written in one afternoon, step by step, with periods of rest so I could to notice even smaller things like the ragged rattail radish and the bouncy footbridge. This pattern works well for me even in cities, say St. Mark’s Square in Venice. There is so much to take in just by sitting on a bench, watching people and pigeons, the Adriatic creeping over the stone steps.

PHOTO: The author and fellow travelers at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeanine Stevens is the author of Limberlost and Inheritor (Future Cycle Press). Her first poetry collection, Sailing on Milkweed was published by Cherry Grove Collections. She is winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, The Stockton Arts Commission Award, The Ekphrasis Prize, and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio National Poetry Award. Brief Immensity, won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award. Jeanine recently received her sixth Pushcart Nomination. She has participated in Literary Lectures sponsored by Poets and Writers. Her work has appeared in North Dakota Review, Pearl, Stoneboat, Rosebud, Chiron Review, and Forge. Jeanine studied poetry at U.C. Davis and California State University, Sacramento.

2009-0725-CA-Allensworth
Allensworth, California
by Mary Langer Thompson

This dream town is left
to parched ghosts whose
promised water rights
vaporized near tracks
bypassed by trains that
refused to stop
for former slaves
or their leader,
murdered under
muddy wheels.

I look through foggy windows of a
cash store with no cash
schoolhouse with no students
church with silent bells,
no dry-mouthed choir
to sing Amazing Grace.

Leaving on the rough,
two-lane road
toward Route 99,
thunderheads appear.
I see the sign,
“Subject to flooding.”

Previously published in Literary Bohemian and the Friends of Allensworth website.

PHOTO: Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, Allensworth California (Tulare County), by Bobak Ha’Eri, used by permission.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Allen Allensworth (1842-1914), born into slavery in Kentucky, escaped during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and became a Union soldier — and was the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1908, he established Allensworth, California, the only town in the state to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. His vision for the town was to enable African Americans to own property, learn, thrive, and live the American Dream. Allensworth’s reputation as a leader drew people from across the United States. By 1910, the area hosted California’s first African American school district. With the death of Colonel Allensworth in 1914, the town experienced extreme losses, coupled with severe drought, and decreased crop yields. Many residents left the area following World War I (1914-1918), and the town of Allensworth was scheduled for demolition in 1966 when arsenic was found in the water supply.The town was memorialized as a state park in 1974, and hosts yearly events to preserve its history.

PHOTO: Colonel Allen Allensworth (1842-1914), founder of Allensworth, California.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I first discovered Allensworth, California, in 2008. Founded by Colonel Allen Allensworth, born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1842, the town was established exclusively by African Americans in 1908. I was so moved by my visit that I wrote the poem after doing some research. There are homes, a schoolhouse, church, and several buildings still standing. My poem was previously published by Literary Bohemian and was on the Friends of Allensworth website. Whether Allensworth, who was hit by a motorcycle on a visit to the Los Angeles area, was murdered or it was an accident has never been decided. I have always wanted to revisit this now state park, next time by train, and on Juneteenth.

PHOTO: Each year, Friends of Allensworth hosts a variety of events, including historical re-enactments, to preserve its legacy. (Photo courtesy of Friends of Allensworth.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Langer Thompson is a retired school principal and former English teacher who now writes full time. In 2012, she was the Senior Poet Laureate of California. She leads The Poemsmiths, a poetry critique group that meets biweekly, currently on Zoom.

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It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
by Kerry E.B. Black

On the North Side of Pittsburgh, an oddly textured bronze statue’s humble smile invites calm. Recorded piano compositions play. This seven-thousand-pound, eleven-foot-tall sculpture gazes across the Allegheny River toward the city.

I’ve watched grown adults climb onto the statue’s pedestal to smile for a photo. Mr. Rogers taught generations of children to love and respect each other and themselves. He did so gently, without shouting or saber-rattling.

When faced with the unfaceable, I remember a quote by the gentle hero represented in this “Tribute to Children” sculpture, Mr. Fred Rogers. He explained that when he was a boy confronting scary things in the news, his mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” He would recall his mother, Nancy McFeely Rogers’ words especially in times of disaster and was “always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

 PHOTO: “Tribute to the Children,” Mr. Rogers Memorial Statue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. by Bill H, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Tribute to the Children,” informally known as the Mr. Rogers Memorial Statue, was created by artist Robert Berks. Cordelia May — philanthropist and heiress to the Mellon fortune — commissioned a statue of her longtime friend to be built through her Colcom Foundation. Completed in 2009, the bronze statue, which cost $3 million to build, is 10’10” high and weighs 7,000 pounds— sturdy enough to support anyone who wants to sit in Mr. Rogers’ lap. The site plays 29 of Fred Rogers’ musical compositions. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Rogers is best known as the creator of the program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran from 1968-2001 on public television stations in the United States. The program was critically acclaimed for focusing on children’s emotional and physical concerns, such as death, sibling rivalry, school enrollment, and divorce. Fred Rogers passed away in 2003 at age 74. (Sources: Wikipedia and pittsburghmagazine.com)

Mr rogers Latrobe
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When we visited “Tribute to the Children,” instead of his piano compositions, the recordings were of Mr. Rogers’ sweet voice. It was lovely to hear! The second photo shows a statue in Fred Rogers’ hometown, Latrobe, Pennsylvania (about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh). He is life-sized and sitting on a bench. When I arrived to take the picture, a group of four teen/early twenty-year-olds were taking turns sitting beside Mr. Rogers. It made me smile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerry E.B. Black, eclectic writer and lover of humanity, has toured Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood where George A. Romero once worked, visited Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Rogers lived, and rode replicas of his trolleys at St Vincent College and Idlewilde Park. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and kerrylizblack.wordpress.com.

PHOTO: Mr. Rogers’ statue, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, by Kerry E.B. Black.

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The Volunteer
by Suzanne O’Connell

I’m just fine except for the falling paper.
A curtain of scraps falls before my eyes.
An animated river,
A looping waterfall.

I didn’t mention the falling paper
to the nice lady
during my exit interview.
Nor the dark edges around my vision.
I didn’t mention the weight I’ve lost.
Or the sleeping issue,
waking every hour or so,
tangled and sweating.

But I’m fine.
The paper bits I see are small.
They’re not the full sheets
that covered the cars and the streets
of lower Manhattan
like tainted snow,
lifting with each breeze,
pulsing,
before settling back down.

One piece of paper said:
82nd floor, please help me.
I think it was addressed to me.
I found it on a parked Toyota
covered with white powder,
but I was too late to help.
I also couldn’t help the man who
tried to wash the dust out of his hair
when it turned to concrete.
Or the child who asked if there
is Jazzercize in heaven.
I couldn’t help the firefighter, who,
well I can’t go into it.
Or my coworker who was asked to leave
because she began to think she was
with the FBI.

Compared to them,
I’m fine.
Really,
if I can get the falling paper to stop,
I’ll be okay.

Originally published in Willow Review.

PHOTO: New York City skyline and  “Tribute in Light,” a public art installation by the Municipal Art Society of New York projected into the sky on September 11th each year, starting in 2002. Photo by Dibrova, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem because there were thousands of volunteers who worked after 9/11. Their hard work, often very traumatic, was frequently overlooked in press accounts. I had the great honor to be one of the mental health volunteers who worked at ground zero. When I worked on site, it was still considered a crime scene and we were instructed that anyone taking a photograph for any reason would be arrested.  Therefore, no photo of me included.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Suzanne O’Connell’s recently published work can be found in North American Review, Poet Lore, Paterson Literary Review, The Summerset Review, Good Works Review, and Pudding Magazine. She was awarded second place in the Poetry Super Highway poetry contest, 2019, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. She received Honorable Mention in the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize, 2019.  Her two poetry collections, A Prayer For Torn Stockings and What Luck, were published by Garden Oak Press. Visit her at suzanneoconnell-poet.net.

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Ground Zero Trauma
by Robert Hieger

I was there when the landmark was reduced to dust,
Flames shooting upward and outward from one tower,
Licking the darkened sky as I looked outside my window,
Witnessed twin flames erupting from its sibling.
The flutter of the heart, the bang of explosions—
All melded into one hyper-real flash of awakening.
A chorus of sirens growing in number, reaching crescendo,
Shot down southbound avenues, wailing mournfully.
Separated from my sister by a matter of 4-5 blocks,
I worried about her well-being, knowing not what to expect.
My cell phone rang (before they became useless that day).
My sister, suggesting we meet at a neighborhood coffee shop.
A short time later, we sat in disbelief, having breakfast,
Coping with knotted stomachs trying to take in food,
Watching the Twin Towers on television crumpling to the
Ground, over and over again, like fallen giants.
All those people…all those people tumbling down,
The growing smell of fire mingled with death,
Breathing in the dust of people…who knew how many?
The creeping sensation of fear, uncertainty, dread.
The Towers never really roused admiration in me.
Above and beyond the engineering genius, they were
Two dumb buckteeth at the foot of the island
Biting the sky with self-congratulatory contentment.
As the morning wore on, a caravan of fleeing survivors,
Clothed in dust and toxins from what was then Ground Zero,
Running north up southbound Second Avenue,
Washing the grime from their faces with bottled water.
Venturing outside the isolated shelter of my apartment,
I felt myself living an unsought and unwelcome adventure.
Poor air quality forced me to wear a face mask.
All this did was amplify the sensation of breathing in toxins.
In the days and weeks to come, realities of a war zone set in.
I lived a few blocks north of my sister, but these became miles.
I was above Houston, she below a couple of blocks. Police barricades
Barred the passage, and she was required to identify me.
On Wall Street tanks guarded all entry points.
National Guard patrolled the palaces of money day and night.
The Stock Market ground to a halt and contemplated oblivion,
Investors banned for a time from their domain.
I aimlessly wandered the streets of my neighborhood, trying to get a
Grip on reality, running into friends doing the same, also encountering
People who I did not know at all, asking kindly how I was and
Offering me bottled water from an ice chest under their tables.

For many weeks, sleep was an estranged companion to me.
Even coping with fear did not eliminate the feeling of isolation.
Inconsolable malaise became my nightly companion,
The one saving grace my beloved cat, Lazuli, who consoled me.

Gradually Lower Manhattan, a shadow of its former self,
Hoisted itself painfully to its feet and began to walk again.
I followed suit, even venturing to survey Ground Zero, watching
Countless trucks carting away tremendous mounds of debris.

I could never get closer than two or three blocks away,
But even this distance revealed the nightmare in full color.
Still some of the smell of fire lingered in the rubble.
Gradually (nine months) Ground Zero became a construction site.
First came a temporary train station for the PATH trains into New Jersey,
After many months of haggling, the slowly forming foundation of WTC 1, then
The new Calatrava WTC Transportation Hub, finally the Memorial Museum,
A contentious reimagining of the site viewed by many as a burial ground.
More than 13 years passed before the mainstays of the complex became a new
Landmark, sprouting fledgling structures, some of which are still not complete.
The new WTC 1 is more compelling than its fallen predecessors, more imaginative,
Yet I still feel a stubborn pride, perhaps hubris that drove the new tower into the sky.
I visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum some months after it officially opened.
Though the steep ticket price angered me, I was pleasantly surprised
With a multifaceted and balanced representation of all views and feelings
About the events of that tragic broken landmark become burial ground.
We have a new and growing landmark nearing completion, yet riddled
With conflicting opinion of how the site should be completed.
Functioning, yet functioning, this site mirrors my inner unrest, is my
Analog of cognitive dissonance with which I wrestle daily.
I still often have trouble sleeping at night. I don’t fear terrorists. I fear
Malignant and one-sided vengeful thought that started September 12, 2001,
And hasn’t yet subsided. I fear hate we turn inward against ourselves. And I fear
That the hidden threat lies dormant on our own shores, among our own people.

PHOTO: 911 Memorial Fountain in the World Trade Center site, New York City, by Brett Critchley, used by permission.

licensed wisconsinart
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The World Trade Center in New York City has always been a major landmark. In the wake of these massive buildings, and all for which they stood, a myriad of personal stories arise. Families of survivors whose grief can never be quelled, and whose questions might never be answered, have a compelling personal narrative. Almost anyone living in New York City at the time knew someone or had a friend who knew someone who perished in the original Twin Towers. My own narrative was and still is profoundly influenced by both the original landmark and the current-day World Trade Center complex. The arc of the story between the destruction of the old and the near completion of the new World Trade Center site mirrored an evolving narrative for me—one originating in shell shock and evolving to one of introspection.

PHOTO: 9/11 Memorial Museum, New York City., showing a support beam from the World Trade Center signed by first responders and others. Photo by Wisconsin Art, used by permission.

RHieger

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Hieger has been involved in the performing arts since childhood. He continues to perform in New York theatrical venues with DADAnewyork and the Wycherly Systers. He has toured with The Living Theatre, though not so much during these masked days. In 2011, he graduated Summa cum Laude from the CUNY BA program as a Thomas W. Smith Fellow, with a concentration in Integrated Web Applications and Design. In 2017, he earned an MS in Integrated Digital Media from NYU Tandon School of Engineering. He maintains a blog of his poetry at logosdifferentia.com. A contributor to Maintenant, a Journal of Contemporary DADA Writing and Art, he posts frequently on quora.com. Selected academic writings including his Masters Thesis, IntuCogita: Creating an Online Alternative to Deeply Entrenched Competitive Learning Models, which may be found at roberthieger.academia.edu/research#papers.

Author photo by Lori Styler.