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-- for those lost

Twin pillars of smoke rise
from the pyre. Dreams
they drift to heaven.
Incense for the baptism
of the new world order.
Incensed, we’ve no object
for our anger.

Souls set free soar
above the altar
of their senseless nativity
and unite in their ascension
blessing the efforts,
sanctifying the response.

-- Dennis Queally
North Bergen, N.J.

The Dictionary at the Pentagon

9:40 a.m., September 11, 2001

After the roof collapsed,
five stories imploded,
the cries heard no more,
only fire billows menace.

Numbness is the first full
fruit of terror past.

Among the rubble an open
dictionary lies upon its stand
offering words alphabetically,
definitions, etymologies and certainty.

The bulldozers rumbling toward the slag
push away the inexplicable.

The lexicon lists generally
accepted meanings the words
acquired since Webster’s last
expanded, improved edition.

The plane sliced five
floors like a layer cake.

The ultimate arbiter of scrabble
gives sequestered spellings,
alienated meanings as though
piling body parts.

Cranes lift high the rubble,
dogs sniff out significance.

The book of vocabulary is no grammar,
gives no form to the flow
of meaning when sense falters,
buckles, blows up in my face.

Body bags, sirens,
ambulances cry “Why?”

My enemy looked up “American.”
It read: “arrogant, bully, rich
-- filthy rich -- and spoiled.”
The dictionary does not lie.

In a high tech time
low tech terror.

As sure as the Lord’s word
to Lazarus “Come forth”
and they unbound him on the fourth day,
holocausts do not have the last word.

Resurrection is a black box
opening unspeakable mysteries.

-- Fr. Kilian McDonnell, OSB
Collegeville, Minn.

Two Plumes -- September 2001

I. Niagara

“Look at the plume of mist
Rising from the falls.”
Sunday morning on Goat Island
White spirals to blue heaven.

Silenced by the roaring falls,
Soaked and ringed by rainbow:
Lives lived in wonder;
Lives lived in beauty.

In this baptism of water,
Scrubbed to barest stone,
All that is not love itself,
Washed away.

II. New York City

“Look at the plume of smoke
Where the towers stood.”
Tuesday morning in Manhattan
Black billows to blue heaven.

Silenced by the flames and ash,
Shocked and wrung by grief:
[Lives lost in innocence;]
Lives lost in rescue.

In this baptism of fire,
Refined to purest gold,
All that is not love itself,
Burned away.

-- Mickey Edwards

2001 in Poetry

2000 in Poetry

1999 in Poetry

Poems should be previously unpublished and limited to about 50 lines and preferably typed. Please send poems to NCR POETRY, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111-1203. Or via e-mail to poetry@natcath.org or fax (816) 968-2280. Please include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number. NCR offers a small payment for poems we publish, so please include your Social Security number.

National Catholic Reporter, October 5, 2001 [corrected 10/19/2001]