Emily XYZ here w/ my first post to Sensitive Skin blog. Great to be here.
I moved back to the east coast Sunday night after 10 years in the midwest. Had just got cats & clothes in from car and was settling in for the night. Turned on the TV and there was the news that bin Laden had been killed by our special forces.
I am not usually one to celebrate anyone else’s bad fortune, much less their violent death, but this was different. Won’t bore you w/ my life in NYC or how I used to work at the WTC when I first moved here in the early 1980s.
A committed criminal usually dies one of a couple of ways, they’re either killed by police or in some other violent conflict related to their business. The exception being “Carlo Gambino Dies in Bed” (NY Daily News). For OBL it was both. And I doubt it came as a big surprise to him when it finally happened.
On the morning of 9/11, I was in Evanston IL (north suburb of Chicago) reading the NYTimes review of Bill Ayer’s just-published autobiography. Bill Ayers was the former Weather Underground leader whose later support of Obama’s presidential campaign brought so much controversy. I was reading how Ayers said he found bombs “poetic, from a distance” when the phone rang at 8:30 (9:30 eastern time) and someone said “Turn on your TV” and the new normal began.
In 1995, while I was finishing my BA at Columbia I got interested in the student radicals who took over the place in 1968, some of whom went on to form Weatherman in 1969, then went into hiding as the Weather Underground. They imagined themselves revolutionaries and espoused violence to prove their sincerity. The leaders, people like Ayers and his equally privileged girlfriend (now wife) Bernadine Dohrn, actually left the bomb-building to others while they did PR and manifestos and secret meetings with various counterculture heavies.
The Weather Underground is best remembered for blowing up one of their own hideouts, a Manhattan townhouse at 18 W. 11 St. near 5th Avenue on March 6, 1970. If you go there today, you’ll see that address is a modern building while all the others are old-style townhouses. Three Weathermen — actually 2 men and a woman — were killed, two other women were injured but escaped the building collapse.
Anyway, this is the poem I wrote in 1995 about the event. It’s my favorite of my poems, and since we’re all talking about terrorism again, I thought I would share this with you.
Townhouse—I arrived at the scene of the explosion ten past one in the charred bricks I found red hairs a pair of glasses and there were some printed things too, little books w/ red covers, a sneaker a brassiere and alotta shattered glass, pipe bomb down in the basement dynamite connected to a clock, broken up appliances mess
What’s it look like they were up to tryin to wrench themselves outta the middle class they end up under a ton of bricks in a smoking trench
In chinatown fluttering red paper pasted to odd doorways, twig-like the pen strokes that form each letter like a tiny tree grown in a box boxes of tree-letters stacked one on top the other like cartons of dried mushrooms or tree bark or tea in the basement of a chinese store, like the cells stacked one on top the other in central booking over there,
letters on red paper indicating what indicating who the fuck knows what says
the sergeant, sticking his fork into the
pork fried rice
who the fuck knows what
try readin the signs on these walls, drive ya blind—
the europeans weren‘t cannibals were they, no, never, not in the usual sense
the usual sense of cannibalism
the building coughed up two naked girls then fell apart, girls seen running thru the soot clouds her and her friend we don’t know where they went, barefoot in the cold
something connected they didn’t expect obviously or there’d still be a building here and they’d still be in it, alive, doin whatever they were doin, tryin to get everybody else to play w/ timers and detonators and theories all equally likely to blow up in your face, thinkin that’s gonna bring about a better world—
x out the applicable laws and what’s left, people convinced they’re right, that’s all
just like us/makes cops mad to hear a cop talk like that I know
but everyone goes too far, far as I’m concerned
tryin to secure the outcome they’re lookin for, or else
just makin life as easy as they can for themselves
tryin to do somethin that seems right they complete a circuit of destruction it should be easy to fix you think goin in but then there’s all this conflict of interest and nothing
outweighs winning winning success is how you define it and if it’s annihilation so what, you pursue it with body and mind and heart and soul and you know you will win, and how do you know?
You’re an American
success is what you believe in.
Leave the red signs and fireworks behind
all this is for another day, what goes on behind the painted sheetmetal
doors of New York City, what are the dreams of the police photographer
who lifts the wreckage
and portraits a dusty flattened face, how long do they think it’s gonna last all those guys
in the stock exchange in the federal reserve, one day those places too are gonna have their
contents upended onto the street their vaults foaming blood and whoever got a god start prayin to it now who believes
in himself this much who believes this much in what he believes in who knows
what he’s gonna do, who knows
who knows, who cares, who cares,
head for the Brooklyn Battery tunnel
nothin you can do about it now.