September 11, 2015


A poem on the seemingly unspeakable tragedies of post-9/11 modern lifePaul Breslin


Hole torn in the language,
How shall we speak? 

On the scale of war,
But where are the armies?

A few men and less money
Than houses cost on my block.

Counting the dead
Is like counting the stones

In a wall, when we have
No word meaning “wall.”

Wind acrid with toxins;
Makeshift shrines in the street.

When Stockhausen called it art.
We were outraged, and yet 

Something art-like
Went into its making.

Only after it happened
Could we imagine it.

Which might also be said
Of the Hammerklavier or the Pietà.

Poem-like, it alludes. Babel,
Nineveh. The Tarot’s Tower

Broken by Lightning;
The Revelation of John of Patmos,

Who ends the Christian testament
By smashing the world.

Our cars grow larger and heavier.
People say they feel safer inside—

As if we had not seen
The tallest and heaviest thing

We know how to make
Melt in the fire and fall. 

Paul Breslin is a professor at Northwestern University. This poem appears in his most recent collection, Betweeen My Eye and the Light.

Copyright © 2014 by Paul Breslin. Published 2014 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

Illustration by Ray Zim

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