Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I've settled into a tradition for dealing with today. I plan to spend today with my favorite artistic responses to the tragedy. Art may not be an adequate response to something like this, but it's better than any of the other options. There are three works of art that I find most meaningful:

  • John Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls. If you haven't listened to this requiem, you should do so today. It's amazing. John Adams is our greatest living American composer and this is one of his masterpieces (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize). The last four minutes are completely heartbreaking. Unfortunately, it's so powerful that I can only listen to it a few times a year.
  • Deborah Eisenberg, "Twilight of the Superheroes." The title story in her collection of the same name. Eisenberg chronicles the aftermath of the disaster in New York through the lives of four privileged twenty-somethings and an older gallery owner. Her voice is light and sad and right on:
    Oh, that day! One kept waiting--as if a morning would arrive from before that day to take them all along a different track. One kept waiting for that shattering day to unhappen, so that the real--the intended--future, the one that had been implied by the past, could unfold. Hour after hour, month after month, waiting for that day to not have happened. But it had happened. And now it was always going to have happened.
  • Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising." A remarkable achievement in popular music. Watching the shows on the "Rising" tour, raising my hands in the air along with Bruce and thousands of other people while singing "Rise Up!"--that is the closest I've come to a communal healing experience.

And of course art isn't just about consolation. Allow me to leave you today with a blistering poem by one of my favorite poets, Frank Bidart. Below is his curse on the terrorists. Take care of yourself on this day, my friends.


May breath for a dead moment cease as jerking your

head upward you hear as if in slow motion floor

collapse evenly upon floor as one hundred and ten

floors descend upon you.

May what you have made descend upon you.
May the listening ears of your victims    their eyes    their


enter you, and eat like acid
the bubble of rectitude that allowed you breath.

May their breath now, in eternity, be your breath.


Now, as you wished, you cannot for us
not be. May this be your single profit.

Of your rectitude at last disenthralled, you
seek the dead. Each time you enter them

they spit you out. The dead find you are not food.

Out of the great secret of morals, the imagination to enter
the skin of another
, what I have made is a curse.

[from Frank Bidart, Stardust, 2005]

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