The second day of school — a poem from the United States

I’ve never published here the prose or poetry of my daughter Maria Mankin, but she called to mind this thirteen year old poem that she wrote about September 11, 2001. She had been at college for several days because she was a freshman and it was the second day of class. Far away from there we, her parents, were trying to deal with a family tragedy and for several hours had turned off news.

The personal and the global are always going on at the same time. The words of her younger self remind me. 

To read more of Maria Mankin and her essay about this poem and what the legacy of that day has been on her blog Books, J’Adore go here

The second day of school

When I call home, I try not to sound
like I need her too much. I leave the TV on,
although it is impossible to comprehend
faces that have already burned away
before cameras were trained on the men
and women who have flung themselves
from the two towers. My mother tells me

my grandmother has been admitted
to Frisbee Memorial, that she’s had
a nervous breakdown. That she locked herself
in her room for three days, and my grandfather
tried to take care of her because he couldn’t
remember how to use the phone to call for help.
It is only nine thirty. I’ve been away from home
one week and a day. A lifetime, now.

I called to hear her voice, to hear that I am not
as fragile as I know I am. She hasn’t even heard
the news. I have to tell her. And I do,
and I don’t cry. I speak the words
the television has been whispering –

the hot blue skies, the planes crashing
a hundred thousand times over as we try
to understand how this could happen –
and I don’t cry. It is not my tragedy
I’m watching unfold on the screen.

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4 Responses to The second day of school — a poem from the United States

  1. Powerfully affecting words from Maria, who has always had a way with words – her mother’s daughter! I find I am having trouble remembering that 9/11 will be the anniversary of that event. So many newer, awful things occupy my mind now. But they are the offspring of that day. And they know the ways of hell and destruction. I hang onto the truth that everything is mortal, people, cultures, nations, this planet. And that God finds something to love in that, as we each have done in our mothers.

  2. Maren says:

    And that is, indeed, so true — such a legacy of fear and resilience that continues to live.

  3. wow this is so powerful-I thought about you today and came to read your beautiful work-very touching and real…Many blessings to you and your family..One one really knows how precious our lives are until tragedy strikes…

  4. Maren says:

    Thank you so much. This certainly carries me back. This daughter today has come home from across the country with new two and a half month old son.

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