Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years After and The Sentinel

National Park Service 9-11 Statue of Liberty and WTC

I've written two poems for the complex topic introduced by Mark Kerstetter for today's Poetics prompt at dVerse--the idea of using our words to explore the wounds of tragedy, with the example of that huge and over-riding tragedy that happened ten years ago in New York City in our minds. The first is a triolet that is probably more in tune with Mark's message, and the second a more cynical and political appraisal. It's a very difficult task, I find, to really turn over something fresh after all these years and all the hype and consequences, but the core of pain is always there to explore.

Ten Years After
A triolet

I searched for you I searched for my best
lost where life became dust and smoke.
Bricks burned and fell in a failing test.
I searched for you I searched for my best

in paranoia, noise without rest
where faith was dark, when reasons broke.
I search for you I search for my best
blackened, lost where life turned to smoke.

September 2011


Watching from the waves
waiting for the night
wavering with the wind
winnowing the sight
taller than the microphone tree
the legless sentinel stands elegantly.

Before the staring sun
beneath the secret stars
beside the heart of fear
beyond the insect wars
blind in black infinities
the eyeless sentinel sees degrees.

Playing the patriot’s game
prowling the profiteer’s alleys
punishing sidecrawling cells
purchasing silicon valleys
avarice plays the same skin flute;
The many-tongued sentinel’s mute.

Crying the widow’s tears
consuming the motherless child
culling the careless earth
crowing the caw of the wild
inhaling each exhaled breath,
the apostate sentinel reinvents death.

August 2011,
revised September 10,2011

Posted for   Poetics   at   dVerse Poets Pub

Image: National Park Service: 9-11; Statue of Liberty & World Trade Center
By US National Park Service emloyee ( [Public domain], via wikimedia commons


  1. Oh! So MUCH just GOOD word-wrangling here to describe an unbelievable happening, and some consequences. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, jumping, fire burn and cauldron bubble. OMG...I could write PAGES of praise for these two works, especially the second. Oh Dear!

  2. the first is certainly makes me think of those searching for loved ones...and the wall of pictures that went up of those missing...

    the second, the skin flute, inner middle schooler came out there...i also noticed the WBPC pattern to the stanzas and thought for a moment but it may just be legs, no eyes, but many tongues...nice...

  3. Both are unique and impressive... I especially like the alliteration in the second one.


  4. Each of these poems probe the uncomfortable core and avoid the easy sentimentalism that attend such anniversaries of disaster. Well done!


  5. Fine pair you have there, H. (Of poems, I mean.) The personal vantage of "Ten Years After" finds no phoenix where I haven't found it, either, where it should have risen now ten years on. Aside from being a great poem, "Sentinel" is what is in lieu of that bird of resurrection, the observing figure who honors truth over hope -- a sort of Occam's Razor whose vision is clear, separating all of the error and wrong and failing that have marked the first decade after 9/11, while keeping a resilient, somewhat wet eye focused on the orphaned children of Liberty. Great writing, H.

  6. The triolet is beautiful, exactly the kind of song that makes me feel good. The "you" in that poem can be taken in a number of ways, and I love that.

    And the second poem - I could apply a covey of names to that sentinel. I admire the person who says, 'I hate this theme' and then gives us two incredible poems. "Reinvents death" - I'm going to be thinking about that a lot. Thank you so much, Joy.

  7. Searching for the best came easy then
    New Yorkers crossed bridges and came through tunnel, befriended one another and a few tourists, met at Sardis before the just re-opened theaters, held each other as close as old friends, Lady Liberty seemed the tallest building in Manhattan and we met with no rudeness or impatience. I think we did find the best of America then.

    I love this triolet. Tragedy churns sweetness out of hard hearts.

    And the second piece, The Sentinel is what we have left of that time. Pity.

  8. powerful and poigniant poetry hedge - both pieces are equally strong and moving

  9. Yeah, I hate this theme too, but I like what you've done. I prefer the first one, simply because, believe it or not, I usually prefer beautiful to grim. And that first one is a beautiful poem about a grim event.

  10. Very powerful writing. The last stanza of The Sentinel is absolutely stunning. Whew.

  11. powerful and beautiful,thank you.

  12. The closing line of the second piece is a punch you in the gut stunner.

  13. Both are beautiful and captivating. Thank you.

  14. oh, they are both deep in meaning and emotion. I esp like where life turn to smoke. haunting but true.

  15. Thanks all. Your feedback much appreciated, as always.

  16. Two wonderful pieces; must say I resonate with the second. The Sentinel punches, no holding back in your clever crafting of rhyme with reason. Bravo, especially, for the last two stanza's cutting commentary on the state of disrepair that people see but no one wishes to address, even in a whisper ~

  17. the first one made me think of searching for oneself in the face of a the lines are cut by the things that happened and you can no longer feel your own soul.. so for me your first poem feels like a look at the tragedy from within, the second more from outside - i like both

  18. beautiful poems
    searching for the best in ourselves
    and facing our society's chaos
    9/11 feels like an ongoing bedlam
    and something i want to apologise for
    product of our warped economies
    and values

  19. And then the weeks of the grand lady standing on a vacant island, welcoming the weary who could not come because of security concerns. Well done. I like the tag "tedious pleas for truth" I believe any time we have to beg for the truth, it rests in a much more sinister, convoluted place than can be explained. Isn't that a sad place for such an honorable trait? Well written.

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  21. Powerful poems, the both of them.

    I wonder if, politically, the apostate sentinel had any choice except to reinvent death. And keep reinventing it.


    (left off a word the first time)

  22. Powerful and poignant word play in both these poems Joy, the icon of liberty watching her City burn. Sad day, must be remembered.

  23. This one ripped my insides out! I'm not at all comfortable writing of this, especially considering I'm not American...I have fears of offending, or being disrespectful. You're writes are fantastic...I am so fond of the triolet form, but the way you force us to think with your words, (honestly, with every write you pen!) is what I find most amazing about your work. You so wonderfully share your own views, while welcoming those of others...that's quite a gift, Joy....a magical gift indeed.

  24. Both are very moving. I especially liked the first, with the treatment of irremediable loss, of self and other. The repetition, rhyme and metre are sublime in the overall effect.

  25. This is one day that everybody around the world will never forget. I do not live in America and this affected me on the small island in the middle of the South Pacific. It is hard to believe this could happen. I am still thinking of this day even now and the images I saw on the TV

  26. The triolet is filled with emotion, while the second poem takes on the detached view of the sentinel - observer of humanity. I think the two pieces together say much about this day.

  27. both beautifully conveyed Joy ~ 'life turned smoke' ~ and just when you thought ~ 'the apostate sentinel reinvents death.' ~ still seems as unreal as it did then ~ thankyou Joy for writing and placing the words ~ Lib

  28. These are both well done, but the stanza that stood out most to me was the last stanza in the second poem. It really gripped me. Well done as always :)

  29. The refraining line of the first one is personally touching for me:

    "I search for you I search for my best"

    The second one is haunting in its sadness with the image of legless and eyeless sentinel. Thanks for sharing your beautiful words today ~

  30. I feel that there are so many possible interpretations to both your poems, Joy. I search for you seems straightforward but i search for my best expands , flys away a bit.

    In the Sentinel, I feel I could go in several directions. But I am left with suspicion. I don't know. A mystery. The "watching, waiting etc, before/beneath, praying/prowling, crying/consuming pattern has me wondering.

    Fascinating as always!

  31. Two wonderful poems. I really liked the second sums up all the loss and fustration with the course of events that followed. Beyond content the style and flow is incredible.

  32. 'I searched for you I searched for my best' I too enjoyed the two perspectives. When we are in deep grief it can fill our whole world. Both pieces speak powerfully to perspective. ‘inhaling each exhaled breath the apostate sentinel reinvents death.’ Apostate is a potent word here conjuring up the places where apostasy is legal, protected in the US under Freedom of Speech and where it is punishable by death (Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, etc.). This last line conjures up the horror.

  33. Loss of our freedom would be a completed apostasy. The horror of someday not being able to write or say or read whatever you want is... Your writes really makes us think. Thank you.

  34. Your triolet catches the universal and personal desire to be more, in spite of our constant failures. Well done.

    The complexities of “The Sentinel” are well told in your other poem, and its simple lilting rhythm and meter. Who is this sentinel? I have my own theories (not reading comments yet), but as poems do, you provide avenues for thoughts to flow many ways. The structure of your stanzas works very well. I almost feel there is resolution when I reach those last two lines each time, even though I am also returned to the nightmare of our failing, blackened society and earth.

  35. wow, these are both so evocative, haunting, biting, true.

    the first brought tears to my eyes, I am ignorant about form, but I love the one you used, the way it works
    "I search for you I search for my best" the echo will continue ringing in my ears.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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