The National Catholic Review
Paul Mariani
Once again the nightmare. The blueblack plume,
The billowing flame. All my life I’ve been afraid
Of tall buildings, and here was the tallest, down
At Manhattan’s prow. Firemen and police officers
Kept running toward the flames. People were falling
Or jumping. No one yet seemed to understand
What was happening. How will they put it out,
I kept wondering. Then the second tower.
Then the Pentagon. Then a fourth jet, down

Somewhere over Pennsylvania. Reality itself
Seemed to buckle with the buckling towers.
Mourn for the city, a man who knew
His Apocalypse quoted me later that week.
The Scarlet City, he said. All over again. Gone.
Gone in an hour. But who deserved this? These
Were folks with families, folks with mortgages
To pay. You or me in the right place
At the wrong time. Plans put on hold. Forever.

Nurses waiting for patients who never appeared.
A priest saying Mass in the smoldering rubble.
The dead, the many dead, and the millions more
Wounded that morning. Mother of sorrows,
What can I say? Here in my room, I watch you
Watching your son, the one they will crucify
In their own good time, as they crucified him here
At Ground Zero. A mother grieves, while
Her little ones wonder where is their daddy.

And where are the lost who paid with their lives?
A mother grieves, and my eye follows hers down
To her child. Remember, he says at the omega point
Of the final book, Remember this well. I am
The morning star rising once more above
My beloved city, as above the homes of my Afghans,
Above my whole bent, broken world. Have I not
Told you I will not leave you orphans? Not
One of you. Not one, not a single precious one.

Paul Mariani is America's poetry editor and a professor of English at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass. His new book, Thirty Days:On Retreat With the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, will be published i

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