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The photograph halted them in life, and now keeps them above the earth toward the earth.Each is still complete, with a particular face and blood well hidden.
People turned to poems when other forms failed to give shape to their feelings.
Some of these poems, certainly, employed the language of faith, a faith that has often been mobilized as a weapon of grievance. In Cleveland, I recall hearing some rather salty Osama limericks involving his mama.
Martín Espada’s “Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100,” for example, offers a globalist ode to the workers on the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center who perished in the attacks.
By focusing on people often unnoticed, sometimes undocumented, and occasionally disparaged, Espada celebrates the diverse gathering of humanity that the American project has enabled, and that the attacks threatened to separate, in the rhetoric of security and the ideology of fear. Praise the cook with a shaven head and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye, a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo, the harbor of pirates centuries ago. Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up, like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
It wasn’t just the bag of ears that the Colonel pours across his opulent table.
It’s the violence at the perimeters of vision—the filed nails of the daughter, the moon hanging on a cord, the house surrounded by a wall of broken bottles, the gratings on the window, even the rack of lamb.
What was 9/11 but the end of the fantasy of our separateness, our invulnerability?
The events of 9/11 occasioned a tremendous outpouring of poetry; people in New York taped poems on windows, wheatpasted them on posts, and shared them by hand.
In Curtis Fox’s words, “poetry was suddenly everywhere in the city.” Outside the immediate radius of what became known as “ground zero,” aided by email, listserves, websites, and, later, blogs, thousands of people also shared poems they loved, and poems they had written.
By February, 2002, over 25,000 poems written in response to 9/11 had been published on alone.