“It is the duty of every poet to speak fearlessly and clearly.”
– Sam Hamill





My Hometown That September

Mary O'Reilly

Returning to my hometown that September
acrid smells greeted me a state away
and Manhattan's grin was missing
two front teeth.

My lowly state ID card sheparded me
past mid-town police checks,
my ticket to a speeding Oneonta police car
and a waiting gator at Canal Street.

New Yorkers passed out socks,
fritos and water,
waving tiny flags.
The command center was a tangle of wires
with tired people searching
for friends they would never find,
across from a school filled with
scientologists in yellow shirts
giving massages
and NYU doctors looking
for triage.

A brown robed man
with one foot on the corner of Vessey and West Streets,
the other in the silver mines of Peru and California,
was giving out the bread of life.

Dust you are and to dust
you shall return
is not the goal of human endeavor.
Dust from the asbestos, concrete and bone.
Dust belching from the breathing fire far below the debris.
Dust rising from Fallujah only half a world away.
Doing to others what you want them to stop doing to you.
History held her breath that September,
daring to believe
Forgiveness could give birth to Peace.

Mary writes: I was down at ground zero two days after the attacks, fit-testing and providing respirators for the rescue workers. The images of those days are in my mind forever. I remember standing in the ruble and thinking people should NOT do this to each other but, alas, we did not learn.