Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival Portland Oregon

Wound: A poem for Sept. 11

Leanne Grabel's poem, written two days after the terrorist attacks, captures the trauma and grief.



I told my new therapist
who was concerned I was not feeling
the tremendous storms of grief, the
bolts of grief
the spate, the jolt
the coats of grief

I woke up early every morning
made a short stack of buckwheat pancakes for
the wolves of fear and sat an hour
flat against the hardbacked wooden chair
first cold then hot then cold
my legs folded under like paperclips.

I sat there staring at the pictures in the New York Times
with the surprising catchy headlines
all those pretty women with their messy ponytails
holding photos of their lovely men (now dust)
in their graceful pale-nailed hands like
flags of surrender.

            Cried I told her. Cry.
           Just cry and cry. 
            My knees are screaming for relief.
            I made immediate plans for yoga. 

My new therapist smiled warmly with her
ample, crooked mouth. Then she
adjusted her sagging stomach
and said she was glad that I’d been crying.
Next time I’m going to have to tell her
I've been crying this way for years

the tears
embedded in a sad and ancient code.
Still God, My God! 
This time we really did it
Etched the membrane
set the branding.

You see it on the faces of the children.
Four-year-olds like scarecrows
stiffened ankles sprouting out their little shoes.
The babies jerk at every movement.  
Even men are crying.
Have you seen how men are crying?

I told her I'd reached a point where
only seconds could I actually feel each day
or I might burn
and die like them
to dust to dust
by the horrible weight of it.
I told her I was feeling strong at first and
shouldered quite a bulk of it.
Then my tendons burned, my muscles screamed
my scalp grew tight. Oh

            Gandhi, can you hear me?
            Gandhi, can you hear me???


  • Portland poet Leanne Grabel wrote Wound on Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington., D.C. It is republished here, twenty years after the attacks, by permission.