Wednesday, September 11, 2019

That Dreaded Anniversary Again—Murfin Rants and Poetry

There is no escaping it.  A scab is pulled off a barely healed wound.  Opportunists and con men scramble to once again jump to wrong conclusions, scapegoat strawmen, and bend the occasion to serve their ambitions and blood lust.
I dread it every year.  But it will not leave me or, I suspect, any of us alone.
But as horrible as those images etched indelibly in my mind are, is it wrong to say that I miss the days just after?  Remember?  For a little while Americans loved each other, found comfort in each other’s arms.  Divisions melted.  We were united by grief, and yes, even some righteous anger.  Even the world mourned for us.  Some of us even dared hope that the sense of oneness, community, and solidarity could change us.  Maybe even last.
Of course it didn’t.  Weeks went by and we went charging off in different directions—drumming up wars on people who had nothing to do with the attack, cooking up wild conspiracy theories that confirmed our own personal demons and loathing’s, scapegoating the convenient and the weak, attacking the patriotism of anyone who did not wear a flag pin 24 hours a day.
And now, multiple wars later, a Depression, the election of a Black President then his replacement with a malignant narcissist and common charlatan, the ascent of a kind of political madness, the rise of entitled oligarchy, immigration panic and the rise of fascist White nationalism Americans hate each other.  Really hate.  Can’t stand to talk with each other, be in the same room, breath the same air.  Rage is the order of the day.  White men strut through malls and fast food emporiums with military style weapons slung over their shoulder daring anyone to look cross eyed at them and in their heart of hearts hoping that someone will challenge them.  Looking for any spark to set off a Civil War.

18 years later America is shattered and American despise each other.
Black kids who look like they could be trouble are pumped full of holes with monotonous regularity.  Half-starved immigrant children are torn from their parents, caged, and brutalized. In some churches, mosques, and temples hate thy neighbor is the daily message.  We are sliced and diced apart every which way—by race, language, religion, politics, age, gender, and who we choose to love.
The once revered first responder heroes of 9/11 have been transformed into greedy union thugs by politicians.  Police departments have been transformed from serve and protect into little armies to quash the slightest suggestion of unrest or dissent.
Women and their health have become more than ever political plaything, and the objects of Great Lie campaigns worthy of anything by Goebbels.   Transgender humans have become prey righteous hunters.
And guns still don’t kill people—the increasing mounds of bodies are felled by some kind of mysterious magic. 
So much for my rant.
Looking back, I have grappled with 9/11 in my poetry more than any other single subject.  And how that poetry evolved speaks to what has happened to us.  
The first one was written for a one year anniversary program and included in my collection We Build Temples in the Heart in 2004.

Photos of the dead and missing in New York posted on a makeshift memorial wall.

The Dead of 9/11 Leave a Message on George W’s Voice Mail

The Dead cry out—

It is not lonely here!
            They come by the scores
                        and by the thousands
                        every day,
                        as they have always come,
                        each arrival here
                        a wrenching loss below.

            They come as they have always come,
                        each death the completion of a journey,
                        the closing of a hoop of life.

            And we welcome each of them.

But we are not lonely here.

            We do not wander silent corridors
                        our footsteps echoing,
                        yearning for a voice.

            We are not lonely
                        for we are the Dead
                        and we are everywhere
                        united in that last breath
                        and in eternity.

But You—

You make haste to fill the unfillable,
            to send us more,
            many more,
            out of their own time
            as we were out of ours,
            yanked here in violence and hatred.

Let them be.

They will come in their own time.

We who know death
            do not cry out for revenge.

We are not lonely here.

—Patrick Murfin

"If I wore stars on a pointed hat."

In 2007 came one of those serendipitous coming together of calendar occasions

September 12, 2007 
The Day After 9/11—Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah

Wheels turning within wheels—
     an astrolabe,
          Tycho’s observatory,
               gears in some fantastic machine,

Today, just today—
     Point A on Wheel X, spinning urgently,
     comes to kiss Point B on Wheel Y,
     rotating on its own good time,
     for just a nano-second
     having just brushed by
     Point C on cog Z.

These precise events will come again,
    I suppose—
     you do the math if you wish.

But if I wore stars on a pointed hat,
    I might conclude that there was something
    beyond mere physics at work here.

Call it an omen, if you wish,
     or the flat hand of something Greater
     slapping us up side our 
     merely mortal heads
     and scolding us—

               “Spin as you will,
                you spin not alone.”

—Patrick Murfin

The cloud of ash envelops Manhattan.
On the tenth anniversary I was moved by reading that the dust from the Twin Towers was still orbiting the stratosphere and slowly, year by year, falling to earth.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
September 9, 2011, Crystal Lake, Illinois

The ash and dust, they say, 
rose as high as the skirts
of the ionosphere.
Prevailing winds pushed it 
            across oceans and around the world.

Most has sifted by now to the earth.
Some orbits still, 
motes descending
            now and again.

My study is a cluttered mess.
Dust lays on any unattended
horizontal surface, 
makes webs in corners,
balls in computer wire rats nests,
devils under bookshelves.

That speck, that one there,
            the one by the stapler,
            just might be what’s left
            of the Dominican cleaner
            who left her children
            with their Abuela
            and went to work 
            in the sky
            only to be vaporized.

Hola, señora.
It is an honor to meet you.

—Patrick Murfin

La Moneda, the Presidential Palace in Santiago, under attack during the U.S. sponsored Chilean coup on 9/11 1973.  In the wake of the coup thousands were killed or disappeared.

Six years ago I recalled that 9/11 was etched in the memories of Chileans as the date of their own national catastrophe—the 1973 coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and ushered in a brutal dictatorship.  The United States government was more than just complicit in that.

Two Anniversaries
September 11, 2013

I’ll ante my 3,000 vaporized on a crystal morning.
You’ll see me your 3,000 homeless ghosts.
I’ll give you my crumbling Towers and billowing ash.
You will call with the bombed rubble of La Moneda .

I’ll throw in a stack of terrorists with beards and turbans.
You’ll count out freckled faces, crew cuts, and black fedoras.

Let’s show our cards and see who loses.

—Patrick Murfin


  1. Patrick, that was simply beautiful in all respects. I particularly liked the Ashes to ashes poem. Thank you for this. Dave Trost.

  2. Person to Person
    Gazing toward the red, white, and blue,
    I will forever be reminded of you.
    Those who have endured such pain,
    lives that will never be the same.
    The many stories that will never be told,
    by the all too young, and not so old.
    It can only be imagined amid the sea of pictures,
    stories and letters,
    the impact you have made and will certainly be remembered.
    Seeing your photograph I think of the loved ones,
    and the ancestors from where you came.
    I can feel the sadness for all, when I don't even know your name.
    You will always be loved, but could never realize how much, by the oh so many lives you have touched.
    It may have been the kindness of your smile,
    or in the words as you lingered awhile.
    Or for the bravery that you have shown,
    must not be gone unknown.
    Although, I never really knew you, one thing I know for
    certain, I would like to take this time to pay a tribute, person to person. Judi Honiker ~Sept. 11, 2001