Archive for the ‘9/11’ category

9/11 (Villanelle)

September 11, 2016



The burning buildings woke me from a sleep
of what I thought important, nothing now.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street,

praying that my child was mine to keep,
dear god oh please dear god I whispered loud;
the burning buildings woke me from a sleep.

Some stopped to stare, all of us to weep
as eyes replayed the towers’ brutal bow.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.

North sky a startling blue, the south a heap
of man-wrought cloud; I pushed against the crowd;
the burning buildings woke me from a sleep.

I’d never complain again, never treat
with trivial despair–or so I vowed.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.

I’d change, give thanks—I saw them leap—
and begged for all the grace God would allow.
The burning buildings woke me from a sleep;
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.



This is an old poem (approximately 15 years old in fact).  Am posting in memoriam and gratitude too, for the grace that I was allowed that day.

Pic is slightly newer, also mine, al rights reserved. 


Remembered Bargain

July 16, 2016

Remembered Bargain

I promised with all my soul
that if I found her whole
I would never rail again,
never again complain
about any personal injustice.

Greenwich Street bore witness
to my brain’s barter with what
always seems to hover “up”
in a wade through desperation
where, as down a well, any gradation
of light is a second coming,
the next second, coming.

I found her and
wept thanks.

But mind moves on and it will rail–
a track-bound train, a wind-ruled sail,
its promises shrugged out of like a shawl
(forgotten on a chair
somewhere over there)
until some switch in inner film’s unroll

takes me to those blurred bricks, veered eaves
where my mind, on its knees, said “please,”
and I say again, thank you
for then and now and then to come too;
though derailed by weaknesses, and by strengths,
I whisper thanks.



A sort of drafty poem for my own prompt on Real Toads about exchanges, barters, promises, markets.  The pic above is of the 9/11 Memorial, also on Greenwich Street in downtown Manhattan. 


On a lighter note, I am very pleased to report that my new book DOGSPELL or Sally & Seemore & the Meaning of Mushki is out!  It is a sweet (I think) children’s novel, written (with some help from my dear departed Pearl) and much illustrated by me.  Great for any dog lover. Available on Amazon.  When at Amazon, check out my other books!  1 Mississippi, Going on Somewhere, Nose Dive, and Nice.  


Reflections of One World Trade (Freedom Tower)

February 18, 2013


Here are a couple of pictures of reflections of the new building being built to replace the old World Trade Center.  The reflection only is of One World Trade (formerly called the “Freedom Tower”).  (I’m glad they changed the name.)   The building that is doing the reflecting is another building (I think the new 4 World Trade) that is on the far side of the “Ground Zero” site.  The idea is that they are building around the “footprints” of the original Trade Towers.

At any rate, the only part of 1 World Trade reflected is the unfinished portion– the open floors and the cranes, which are on something like the 80th floor on up.  Presumably, the rest of the reflection is blocked by another building  – but it’s an odd sight, I think, to see the reflection cut off at such a straight line.


PS – I realized this morning that the abrupt cut-off probably happens because there is a separate building just below the reflective one, which is also glass and reflective, but which is oriented differently so that its tiles are at a different angle (and does not reflect the same images.)  It is very difficult to see the second building in the sun, but in the shade, it’s very clear.  So, it’s the low, second building, that cuts off the reflection and not a higher one.  k.

Ground Zero Sight (In new “Freedom Tower”) – Tritina

August 30, 2012


Ground Zero Sight (In new “Freedom Tower”)

I walked where gaps in late rush hour led,
threading my way through shoulders crowding,
till random retinal rod looked up, saw

moon–not in sky, but in new tower’s glass–saw-
ing from rectangle to round as crowding
panels re-cut and perspective, led

by my tilt of head and careful crowding
steps, re-shaped; and, for once, the site did not saw
my chest in two– hewn norm since that morning of lead —

but led to wonder, crowding out (for moonrise moment) what–I saw.
Agh!  the last line was originally intended to run over into the next – but the runover would not be indented so settled for dash.  Also, original version of this post used “that” instead of “what” which I think was a bit more confusing than the “what.” 

The above is a “tritina”, a form of mini-sestina, that repeats in intersecting order the last words of the line. I am posting it for the dVerse Poets Pub “Form For All” challenge hosted today by the wonderful craftsman Samuel Peralta (a/k/a Semaphore).

The photo taken last night on my iPhone shows the new Freedom Tower being built at Ground Zero to replace the old World Trade Center. I was startled to see the reflection of the moon in the lower left hand corner – it’s that small round speck there. It shifted, of course, as I moved, especially given the right-angled glass panels.

The photo below is the view from the other side.

Check out dVerse, Sam’s article on Tritinas and my books! Poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco). 1 Mississippi -counting book for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms, or Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape. Nose Dive is available on Kindle for just 99 cents!

A New Yorker’s Sense of Direction – 9/11–9/12 – What helped – Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 10, 2011

When I first moved to New York, I lived on Mott and Houston.  All my prior experience of New York had been situated on the Upper East Side, a perfect grid of numbered streets, famous avenues, Central Park.

Now I was just north of Chinatown and Little Italy, beyond the scope of integers. (For non-New Yorkers, Houston, if numbered, would be approximately zero street.  The island goes on about for hundred or so blocks south.)

But who knew from south?  Or north?  Uptown/downtown?

How, when I came out of the subway, and hardly knew right from left, could I find my way anyhere?  Even home?

A friend clued me in.  Look for the twin towers.  Way downtown.  Anywhere else was up.

And there they were.  Always to be found.  Gleaming silver through blue, haze, cloudscape, twilight.  Twinkling in the middle of the night.  Perhaps not the most distinguished buildings, but sentinels, and in their way, completely thrilling.   You are in New York City, they said, the BIG BIG apple.  A place where, when you look up, you need to crane your neck.

I don’t want to write here about the sight of the planes, the fireball, the anguished streets.

What I want to write of is September 12th.  A friend called us early in the a.m.  “We have to do something,” she said.

So, she and her kids came over, and, first things first, we baked.  Chocolate chip cookies for the rescue workers.  Then made sandwiches.  Then took everything to St. Vincent’s Hospital, a would-be triage center.  (There were, unfortunately, virtually no wounded; almost everyone at the towers died at once.)  As the day went on, we made the rounds of local restaurants, collecting buckets of ice (it was a hot day and we were told that ice was somehow needed), even later, sorted pairs of tube socks (it was supposed to turn cold that night. )

As the skies grew orange, then purple, then dim dark grey, with smoke, dust, lights, we took our baggies of chocolate chip cookies, bandanas wrapped over our mouths and noses, to the West Side Highway, handing them through the truck windows of workers going to and from the site.  They kindly took them, one guy even handing us back face masks to wear in place of our scarves.

I don’t know if anyone actually ate the cookies, wore the socks, but making them, collecting them, made our lives sweeter, stabilized our feet, gave us for those couple of days at least, some direction; a sense of which way was up.

I give thanks.



For a poem about 9/11 the day.

9/9/11, Helicopters in Lower Manhattan, Poem

September 9, 2011



I wake this morning in lower
Manhattan to the broken
record roar of helicopter hover,
finding my heartbeat synchronous–
not wanting to be here
anymore right now
September 9, 2011.

Remember a woman, blonde,
with a blue knit cap, December 2001,
caught at the edge
of the slope, her skis sideways, stuck aslant,
afraid to just slide down, to
stay still too; she’d brought
her kids for fun, her husband
gone, they’d only found his
hand, itself lucky. My own
husband reached out his
across the cold,
coaxing her restart.

Away today, he tells me,
over the phone, not to worry
about participating in any event, hoopla,
no disrespect intended.

(As always all rights reserved.)

Republican MSNBC Debates (Not on the Elliptical/On the Elliptical?)

September 7, 2011

After I stopped exercising

I worked out today, not while writing my blog on the elliptical machine, but while listening to the elliptical debate of the Republican presidential candidates.

Two of the meanings of “elliptic” according to the Free Dictionary (okay, not the most authoritative source but good enough) are:

“a.  Of or relating to extreme economy of oral or written expression.
b.    Marked by deliberate obscurity of style or expression.”

These two meanings seem at first contradictory.  As someone whose tends both to run on and muddle, I would normally characterize ‘economic’ expression as clear/precise.

And yet, as I listened to the Republican debaters, the two meanings of elliptic meshed.  Almost every candidate tried to pepper his or her answers with catch phrases–lines that were short and memorable–but hopefully not clear enough to alienate.   (Economic ideas, that is, solutions for the economy–other than “fix it,” “grow it,” “trust in Amex,” and forget about anything green, except for cash, seemed especially obscure.)

A few odd juxtapositions: Governor Perry, when attacked for his executive order requiring young girls to get vaccinated against HPV, claimed that he will always err on the side of life.  Later, Perry said, however, in a voice that grew more gun-smokey as his answer went on, that his sleep was never troubled by the high number of executions in Texas. v Romney talking about poorer non-taxpaying Americans as not supporting the troops.  (Ahem, Mitt, who makes up most of the troops?)   Bachmann inviting Ronald Reagan into the no-raising taxes pledge group.

Those juxtapositions could probably be labeled as trivial.  But one, which was particular to me, seemed more serious.  This arose not from what the Republican candidates said, but from my particular day.  With all the emphasis on 9/11 here in NYC, a friend had me listen to a very sad clip about Welles Crowther (the “man with the red bandana”), a young Boston College grad, fledgling securities trader, who led two groups of people down from the 79th floor of the South Tower through the only usable staircase to the safety of ascending firefighters on the 62nd floor.  On his third time up to see whom else he could help, Crowther was caught in the Tower’s collapse.

Catastrophe–disaster–emergency often seems to bring out the best in people.  In contrast longer-term hardship, a state of emergency that becomes the norm,  seems sometimes to wear down those generous instincts–that desire to help others, to step into the brink.  (Perhaps not in extraordinary people like Welles Crowther but certainly in many others. )

In the end, it was a kind of brittleness, a worn-down hardness, that I found most troubling in some of the candidates–a hardness towards the Ponzi-profiting elderly, FEMA-depleting disaster victims, uneducated children, and even towards that old conspiracy-promoting inconveniently-warming Planet Earth.



(PS – in interests of disclosure, I missed beginning half of debate in which I understand there were a lot of very odd juxtapositions–Perry/Hilarycare/jobs under Dukakis, etc. etc.)

Hard Landing in Downtown NYC

September 5, 2011


One bummer of living in downtown New York City is that any return home, after time away, necessitates a confrontation with a grim political past, i.e. the old World Trade Center site.

When walking past Ground Zero on a daily basis–late to work, late coming home from work–it is easy enough to pay little attention to it. There are the windows of Brooks Brothers, for example, a store I never seem to enter, but always think I should. (I have this belief–never tries–that if I would just buy a few quality pieces that, unlike all the clothes I get online, really fit, I would never be late for anything again.)

Then there is Century 21 whose sidewalk is jammed with people carrying large bags.

And the fire station. Which is distracting because New York City firemen really are quite good looking. (The calendar doesn’t lie.)

Then there are the streets down by the excavation of the old Deutsch Bank building–they are distracting because I once saw a rat in broad daylight/twilight. Right on the sidewalk.

So on a normal workday, there is plenty to think about other than 9/11.

But on a return from a trip, carrying stuff that makes you walk slowly, it is hard to avoid the sight of all the tourists and, worse, the many cameramen. (One reporter was getting his face powdered today). I am being unfair, I suppose, but the energy feels remarkably like rubbernecking. (The powder-faced reporter had a very ostentatiously curled plastic cord snaking behind one ear.)

I will be very happy when this week is over.

Ground Zero – Noticing Time, Glass – When Did it Happen?

June 29, 2011


As followers of this blog may know, I walk by the old World Trade Center Site – Ground Zero–close to ten times a week. I confess to not paying much attention to it though. The site/sight is still painful to me–I am uncomfortable both with its blankness (which brings up loss) and its busyness (which seems somehow heedless of loss.)

I am uncomfortable too with all the commotion, Although I make an effort to help tourists in most parts of New York City (the subway especially), I tend to avoid them down here because of those same internal conflicts: when the tourists seem overawed, I want to tell them–look–people are bombed somewhere in the world every single day. When they seem flippant–posing and checking out all the horrible postcards–I want to shout at them–show some respect! Don’t you realize what a big deal this was?

But I also have plenty of other distractions: there’s the darting in front of traffic; the trying to pre-empt the walk signs.

Then, of course, there are my digital devices–the checking of email as I walk, the balancing of the phone while I talk, the relatively recent activity of messing around with the headset that is belatedly supposed to protect me from brain cancer.

Lastly, there is an extremely sore right knee.

These all keep my attention at ground level. (And there, I am quite observant–even to the point of being the only person on the block to see a r-a-t the other dusk.)

But this morning, lo and behold, I looked up.

There are actual buildings on the site right now, not just taking shape, but being sheathed. In glass. With metal striations. The Path train station and the Freedom Tower, which for the past several years were only images on posters the tourists photographed now have too many stories to count.

Time has marched on.

It shook me up on several levels.

First, I’m sorry, but new buildings feel a bit like new targets. (Worrisome.)

And then there’s that business of time again

Is that why my knee is bothering so much. Time? And marching?

I stopped to take the photograph above so that I could at least distract myself with, you know, a digital device.

And feel for a moment, almost, like a tourist.

More Blurred Thoughts on bin Laden, May 5th, New York’s Day

May 5, 2011

I spoke to my mother in Florida today, May 5th, who asked me if we were all super-happy now, we New Yorkers.  (My mom watches a lot of TV.)

New Yorkers are never super happy.  (We don’t all wear black just because it doesn’t show dirt.)

But some of us do seem to be happier than usual; according to the media, many of us are absolutely euphoric about the killing of bin Laden; for the last few days I’ve been wondering why I’m not one of this group.

(Please don’t misunderstand me. I am glad the U.S. has accomplished its mission.  Still, I don’t find that bin Laden’s death brings the satisfaction that the media has been touting.)

One reason, previously mentioned, is a general pacifism.  I could manage violence in self-defense, and certainly in defense of others, but I feel uncomfortable with an “eye for an eye” ideal of justice, even in the case of horrific villains.  It seems to me that one must be careful not to lower one’s self to activities that are in any way similar to those that one deplores.

But one reason for my sense of anti-climax may be the way the 9/11 attack was originally handled.  At the start, President Bush characterized the attack as an act of war rather than as a crime.  (I remember that moment in his speech with great intensity, sitting on my coach, in the haze of smoke and dust that overtook downtown Manhattan, weeping.  Afterwards, cooking impossible, we went to eat in an Indian restaurant I’d never been to before or since.   Like many Indian restaurants in New York, it was actually a Bangladeshi restaurant, and I wondered what the waiters were thinking, serving those small metal dishes of currified sauces, war in Asia in the making.  It was a surreal time in the City.)

If an action is characterized as an act of war, if it is used as the justification for war (two wars), it’s a bit difficult to turn it back into a crime again, something solved by a successful manhunt.

Would that it could be so.