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A Poem For 9/11: Shanksville

This being the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country of Sept. 11, 2001, I’m publishing a poem written about the day by my father, who is professor emeritus of comparative literature from Claremont McKenna College.

Shanksville

By Ricardo Quinones

Whatever it was,
Needing a companion at 40,000 feet,
The accumulating spotty clouds
Suggesting the beetle bush wildness
That overhung his eyes;
The patches of ground below
That resembled the  splotches
Of his nearing-ninety skin,
Or the flight path itself
Southeast of Pittsburgh,
Some twenty minutes from  D.C.
Placing us directly over Shanksville,
The last great chapter of American democracy.
All conspired to bring  to mind
The presence that they required.
And so I said to the  presiding form
The poetic father of us all
“Kitty Hawk, Kitty Hawk,”
And he, pleased by the recollection,
Replied, “Shanksville, a name quite different,
Like many along these rural roads,
But what’s in a name?
What matters  are the revelations they contain.”
Out of the depths of the American past,
He established the tableau of vision
That would govern our conversation.
*
The Wright brothers had it all,
The turn-of-the-century
Tinkerer’s genius of invention
Coupled with the thirst for competition.
The French were dogging their tails.
But they were masters of locomotion
And at Kitty Hawk
Were the first to lift a powered device
Weighing more than air
Twenty feet off the ground for twenty seconds
A distance of 120 feet.
To the derision and abuse
Their claims elicited
Galileo’s defense was ready for use,
Eppure si muove,” nevertheless it flew.
The French with justice in their hearts
Were brought to admit and apologize
For discrediting this first adventure into space
That in more than a half -century’s time
Would send a human to stroll on the moon. Continue reading

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