God Bless All Nations. . .No Exceptions. On the Wisdom of Poet Billy Collins’ and his Elegy for the Victims and Families of 9/11

When I first heard that US poet laureate Billy Collins had been invited to write a poem on the topic of Sept 11, all I could think was what a herculean task to straddle. . .


Just how does one put into words all the complexities and layers of such an event?

And how to honor those who lost their precious lives and validate the families. ..without inciting more violence, adding fuel to the fires already starting to burn in the hearts of many angry Americans. ..to steer clear of the rhetoric of revenge, neither condoning nor condemning it, as the former would just be unthinkable and the latter an invitation to backlash and self-righteous defense of the unspeakable horrors to come.

And then I heard him read his finished poem. . . .


And I dreamed of a day when the world would learn to grieve and experience the full impact of its losses and in turn be able to see and feel the grieving of others, the day when that word “evil” would just be banished from our vocabularies.

“When will our consciences grow so
tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” –Eleanor Roosevelt




Letting Go of the Roses

Last  night I awoke to the blinding light of something broke loose from a desperately colorful dream.  I can’t remember the details exactly.  Just that I found myself  kind of breathless and gasping, stunned mostly. ..and in front of me there was something I can only describe as a block of brightness moving away as I reached for it.

Still lost in sleepiness, at first I thought it was some kind of answer to prayer, if I actually did pray. ..I guess I kind of do as I’ve been struggling lately. . . with feeling so spent and tired, and unmotivated to lift a brush for more than a few seconds.  Lately I just pick it up, dip it into something.  . .drag whatever it was across the canvas, sigh and put it back down again.

So anyway looking back on that dream thing, I am thinking if it actually had been something otherworldy or ufo-ish presence I was seeing instead of a sleep-induced hallucination, it would have had softer edges instead of angles probably.  I didn’t see its face either. .so that was kind of suspicious to me as well.

Then this morning, when I went out to the garden, I had to come to grips with the fact that the white rosebush had died finally. ..that the weight of what had been shoveled on top had crushed its delicate root system. . .  a mishap from last fall when my landlady replaced the backyard sidewalk, and in the process hired some brute with a slegehammer and a shovel.

I came home one day to find the roses coated in a layer of concrete dust.  The bush’s base was buried in a pile of dirt and gravel.

I was able to remove most of the gravel at the time, but I guess the trauma of being buried alive was just too much.  The back branches had already gone brittle in March after the first flowering and today I found the ones in front somewhat crushed and crumbling as well.

I will have to take a shovel to it tomorrow. .. heavy gloves and bucket.

At its peak, the thing had spread to about three feet around and five high.  And its blossoms were big and lush, heady with perfume and petals.  Pretty impressive for having just been planted a couple of years ago.

I will miss the roses every time I pass that space.  I will have to fill it somehow.  Maybe next week, or next month, but not just yet.

Painting by John William Waterhouse