New York, September 12, 2001

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‘Then it went dark. Real dark. Like snow.’
—words of a survivor

will the hand endure moving over this paper
will any poem have enough weight
to leave a line of flight above the desolate landscape
ever enough face to lift against death’s dark silence
who will tell today

the huge anthill of people remains quiet
somber and bright but obscure
as if the brown effluvium of sputtering towers
sweeps still the skyline with a filthy flag
who will weep today

today images wail for voice behind the eyes
planes as bombs stuffed with shrapnel of soft bodies
then the fire inferno flame-flowers from skyscrapers
human flares like falling angels from the highest floor
down, down all along shimmering buildings of glass and steel
fluted in abandoned beauty and fluttering
weightless and willowy and flame-winged to streamline
fleeting reflections in the fugitive language of forgetting
the hellhound of destruction has a red tongue of laughter

who will tell and who will count
gouged eyes do not understand the blue of sky
through a dismal and chilly nuclear winter
people stumble people shuffle
stumble-people shuffle-people worm-white-people

where lie the faces
old before their end or their wedding
grayed in ashes from head to toe
as if clothed in coats of the snowing knowing of ages

beneath rummage and debris rosy corpses move and mumble
and in East River confidential files and folders float
with shreds and feathers lacerated human meat
scorched confetti for the dog’s feast
who will tell tomorrow tomorrow

where are the faces
will the tongue still think
still pulse its dark lair
with flamed memory of bliss
will words still drink oblivion
will any poem some day ever carry sufficient weight
to leave the script of scraps recalling fall and forgetting

will death remain quivering in the paper

 

– Breyten Breytenbach

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