the sand that is everywhereThe title of the piece was borrowed from Toronto writer and filmmaker R.M. Vaughan, who said in the acknowledgements of his first poetry collection, A Selection of Dazzling Scarves (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1996), that this was his original title. I preferred the abandoned title to what he went with, and lifted it back for myself. But how does one write anything after such an event? Even Paul Celan knew, you could still write poems after Auschwitz, but they would have to be different.
you would be so very nice
& be ready w/ a believable
seeking out the cause, so much
left here has been broken
a rattling of chains
this is a noise you hear
on a bus
a context that supplies its own
chest pulld tight, as watching
announcing the death of irony, even
before the fires are out
ash covers all in his apartment
the space of weeks, & a few
Over the years I'd steered deliberately clear of poems on current events and politics, mainly because most poems on such simply don’t work, and there are enough badly-written, well-intentioned political poems out there in the world without me adding to the problem. Still, it became part of a list of events that connection whole populations; where were you on the day this or even this happened? The world saw John F. Kennedy assassinated that afternoon in Dallas on live black-and-white or captured on radio; the Vietnam war was one lost through media reports witnessed on television. The Challenger disaster I watched live in 1984, just home from a high school morning of my grade nine history exam. The western world was connected through our three or four days unable to do anything but watch the reports of the World Trade Center attacks and response on the major news networks.
Following the attacks, the media was reporting the death of irony. How can they report such a thing, said New York resident Jon Stewart, one evening on The Daily Show, when I still have ash covering everything in my apartment? Some of the fires weren’t even out. Such things aren’t possible. It's too early. Everything will eventually go back to normal, whatever it is that might mean. But what does normal become?
Did anyone else notice how it was CTV Newsnet, well before CNN or CBC, showing new footage first, well before the other stations repeated such, well down the line? Do you remember the empty skies and the government workers sent home?
Do you remember that start you had a few days later, noticing that first airplane back in the sky just above?