Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering 9/11: "On the Beach"


"I call you back, girl, I call you back.

I am at the other end of this life now

yet your footprints touch mine beneath the sand,

I follow them.

On the beach your sand prayers

ring here still,  the Earth

is my witness."

I wrote this poem on the beach at Mendocino, California, exactly a month after the twin towers fell in New York on September 11th, 2001.  It was a beautiful day, children were playing in the surf, seagulls calling overhead.  And there I sat, while I felt a great cloud of death and destruction gathering far away, a cloud that would soon affect all our lives.  And so it was:  we saw a 20 year war in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq.  Millions died, mostly civilians.  All for what?  

As I sat there I remembered a famous  1959 movie with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner,  based on the book by Neville Shute  "On the Beach".  Written at the height of the Cold War, it was about a radioactive cloud that had destroyed America and Europe and Russia as the aftermath of a nuclear war,  a doom that  was slowly moving toward Australia.  The people of Australia had just a year  to wait for their own demise, and the film depicts how they do that.  

Since then a new Tower has been built, Afghanistan has returned to the same tyrants that controlled  the country before 9/11 and George Bush's wars,  the dead are mostly forgotten, and a whole generation of young people view the whole thing as ancient history.  What remains,  then and now?  Gaia. 

ON THE BEACH (Oct. 11th, 2001)

One month after the world ended

The little island world we,

the privileged few, could pretend

was safe, forever, and righteous

The fallen towers, fiery messengers

of unfathomable destruction yet to come.

Tourists walk barefoot on the familiar beach.

They came here, I imagine,

as I have, not to forget, but to remember.

To remember driftwood and high tide -

a red dog and a yellow-haired child

as they enter the water -

their cries of goodly shock and honest forevers

always new, always cold,

always blue.

A white heron,

balanced in perfect equanimity on one leg.

Wave forms overlay my feet......

transparent hieroglyphs of infinity.

Her way of speaking.

Gaia.  Her manifest, unspoken words.

A brown man lies beside the mossy cliff,

spread-eagled between sky and sea and land.

Sand sunk, leaf-molten,

blackberry thorn,

into the green:  

toes, fingers, flesh

reaching into the green

redeeming Earth.

He is rooting himself.

He is taking himself back.

I lie down in grateful imitation,

a stranger in companionable human proximity

sharing this rite of remembering.

I  see her now,  I see a girl

walking on this very beach.

Yesterday, and 40 years ago.

Sourcing, she is 

sourcing the one who lives here

a river Goddess with no name.

She has made a mermaid offering

of sticks and sand and seaweed.

Companions arrive, offer shells,

and return to Berkeley.

To Vietnam, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall,

the war, the wall,

the war, the walls.

The war,

and the summer of love.

("the revolution will not be televised")

A generation to end war, raise hell,

raise consciousness,

raise Atlantis,

and raise the new and Golden Age

("the revolution will not be televised")

How did we get here from there?

I call you back, girl,

I call you back.

I am at the other end of this life now

yet your footprints touch mine beneath the sand,

I follow them.

On the beach

your sand prayers

ring here still,

The Earth

is my witness.

Lauren Raine (2001)

from APHRODITE IN BROOKLYN and Other Mythic Voices 


Annie Bee said...

Deepening my thoughts, this poem is a silent contributor to my own memory of that beach through the years. Of those same thoughts from war to war to war too war

Annie Bee said...

Deepening my thoughts, gathered and centered, the same beach 50 years ago. A different war. From war to war to war to them now. Can we have a different way of marking time?