Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11: Fifteenth Anniversary, Billy Collins, "The Names"

It has been a quiet day, this anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  Full of sun and warmth and wind.  I remember this day fifteen years ago.  It was much like today.  One of those early autumn times when summer isn't distant enough to be forgotten.  A day when it feels like nothing bad could ever happen.

For anybody reading this post who was touched in a direct way by the attacks, I will say a prayer for you this evening.  So many people lost.  So many families broken.  So much heartache.

It is hard not to be angry, even after all this time.  But anger doesn't allow space for healing.  I have a lot in my life for which I could be angry.  One of my sisters still won't go to church because she's angry at God for our sister's death last year.  No room for love in her heart.  Period.

It may sound corny and old-fashioned, but I'm praying for love tonight.  Love for everybody.  That's what it's all about.  That's what's going to defeat terrorists and dictators and Donald Trump.  Love.

Maybe Saint Marty is corny and old-fashioned.  He would prefer a world without anger and fear.

The Names

by:  Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.

A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,

And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,

I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,

Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place

As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.

Names slipping around a watery bend.

Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot

Among thousands of flowers

Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,

And each had a name --

Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air

And stitched into the cloth of the day.

A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.

Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows

And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.

I say the syllables as I turn a corner --

Kelly and Lee,

Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.

When I peer into the woods,

I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden

As in a puzzle concocted for children.

Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,

Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.

Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.

Names silent in stone

Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.

A boy on a lake lifts his oars.

A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,

And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --

Vanacore and Wallace,

(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)

Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.

One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.

Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,

The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.

Alphabet of names in a green field.

Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat

Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.

Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.

So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

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