Reflections on a Beam of Light


End of Serpents’ Comfort

Sunna’s gaze lights paper / petals float on Skollvaldr’s seas
Steel geese have torn the neck’s burden / stout twin trees of the sole twisted
The kernel of the corn sheaf bursts forth / breathing blackened corpse dust
Speak well of the small kindnesses / and rend the seethers into disregard
Sing memory’s triumph / at the sweet end of serpents’ comfort.

People say you never forget where you were. It’s true. I was walking back from fencing class in college. The sky was clear, untroubled.  It wasn’t until I called my mother and she said, “They’re gone,” that the terrible wrenching unreality of the whole thing became as crystalline as that autumn sky.

There was a reason no jet trails marred the arc of Ymir’s skull.

Last night, as I drove past Worcester, anger welled as I saw twin searchlights piercing the sky.  “What right have you?” I muttered.  “Bullshit solidarity looking to cash in on the pain of others.  You’re not New Yorkers, you don’t have the right.”  Of course by that logic, neither do I (I’m a Jersey girl).

My ex-husband couldn’t understand why this anniversary affected me so.  I didn’t lose any loved ones.  A few people from our town died, but no one I knew personally.  I wasn’t even near New York at the time.  How could I explain that the city skyline that watched over my childhood was now broken?  It was wrong, viscerally and totally wrong.  Months later, you could still smell the ash, still breathe the dead.  Would taking them into our lungs, our bodies let them live on in us?  Or would they kill us all, a slow, choking revenge of “Ground Zero Illness”?

During the Concert for New York City, Richard Gere had the bravery to plead for cooler heads, not to retaliate in kind against Al-Qaeda.  The crowd turned dark and ugly.  Gere did not abandon his pacifist stance, saying, “That’s apparently unpopular right now, but that’s all right.”   In that moment, I was ashamed.  America garnered much good will from the world after this wretched sacrifice. We have squandered it entirely.

I pulled into work as the moon was cresting the tops of the trees.  Looking out across Greenwich harbor, the twin beams of light appeared as one, a single torch that would burn until dawn.  I walked down to the sea wall and stood at the edge, smelling the swelling tide and watching my moon-shadow stretch across the rocks.  The soft, light breeze lifted my arms and for the first time in 13 years, I spoke to the dead.  I poured out my gift into the black waters and felt peace.

The new tower bears the name “One World Trade Center.”  May that be a promise as much as a prophecy.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on a Beam of Light

  1. I can’t imagine what it must have been like living in America on that day… I struggle enough to deal with thinking about war and its impact on Britain and abroad in general, on the living and now dead.

    I know what you mean about the sky being broken by catastrophe. War and conflict tear apart both worlds. A while back I had a dream there was a hole in the sky, which I related back to Paul Celan’s ‘grave in the sky’ (‘Death Fugue’ and I wrote this poem ‘Hole in the Sky’ Last time I looked upwards through the broken tower on Glastonbury Tor I saw a hole in the sky. Are these places where the worlds of the living and dead meet, and / or rips or tears in the Veil?…


    1. Sorry I’m only replying to this now, because it’s a great observation.

      I’m thinking that hole can be made both by trauma and by devotion. As to where they go, I guess we can only find out by going through ourselves or waiting to see what comes through from the other side.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s