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16 Acre Cemetery

This was one of my earlier published poems. Of course, it was only Published in the Central Review--but it was published nonetheless. I did get a lot of attention for it, and I'm particularly proud of it.

Reflection following.


After the dust had settled, they went to work piecing together the mystery. They knew it had been a fire, and not just impact that caused it, but just how they weren't positive. As they watched each double-H orange piece of steel lifted away by crane, and ran index and middle and ring over the porous surface, they concluded that-while the impact hadn't been the final factor, it started a chain of events that was irreversible: you see, when the American Airlines Flight 11 carrying ninety-some women and men, children, grandmothers, uncles, mentors, teachers, bag-boys, producers, guy down the street with the pretty dog; goes jogging in the neighborhood--black leash contrast to colorful shiny nylon jogging suit-says 'Hi " to you and you wave taking for granted; not paying close enough attention to sun off his aviator glasses, his silly flat-billed baseball cap; the way he smiles at everyone hit the structure at full speed, it knocked the spray-on fire-proofing off the steel support beams and that is why the fire was able to weaken the steel causing each floor to pancake on-to the other like a compressing accordion.

What died that day was far older than 31 year old CEO survived an adrenaline- rush bull goring in Pamplona, he loves his mother, he loves his rugby team, he loves his tulips, they're about to go to sleep for the winter, and he can't wait until the spring when they'll be the pride of 2002--much farther reaching than lady on the bus next to you with headphones and she's bobbing her head and it's Bobby Brown, you think, I haven't heard.that song in years! I like her purse, her daughter is so beautiful, so fragile, and so sad and tired with little blue sunjlower-shaped plastic barrettes--it was science and reason and the ideas of "sure," or "positive," or "absolutely." We can't know if we' II see tulips tomorrow. We can never be "Sure" of that now.

Published in the Central Review 2003

9/11 is an extremely important day for me. I'm a peculiar kind of patriot. I love the idea of my country very much, and I'm very very biased about it. America's system has the promise to be the greatest system on the planet--warts and all. I feel the Bill of Rights may even be the greatest political document ever.

That said, you can't lump me with the flag-waving, fireworks-shootin good 'ole boy patriots out there. I love the idea of my country, but I'm damn pissed at my country. Racism, classism, sexism and homophobia are counter to the very idea of this country, but certainly prevalent and permissible. However, institutionalized racism, classism, sexism and homophobia are disgusting and these things are holding us back from realizing the promise of this great experiment.

I'm a patriot, not because I'm proud of what my country's done in the past. I'm not proud of centuries of slavery and 'domestication' of women, both systems that used people like property to be bought and sold like a car. I'm not proud of the genocide of millions of Native Americans--and their continued use as a symbol for privileged middle-class white boys to center their privileged partying around. Don't get me wrong, I understand I'm privileged, and I do love to party, but It disgusts me that we treat human beings like animals to this day when the "Illini" play the "Bulldogs." 'Nuff said.

I'm not a patriot because of what my country's done in the past. I'm a patriot because of what my nation promises to be someday. This promise was made to me when those old white men in expensive clothes gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution. In some ways its the greatest promise that any nation has ever made to its people: You're free, you're equal, you're in charge. That promise has not been made good for everyone. As a gay man, I'm neither free nor equal, and I'm HARDLY in charge.

But its there, this promise, in black and white--ink over 200 years old, but still there. Someday I still believe this promise will be made good. Whether I'm alive or not, I don't know. But someday, Americans will finally be able to cash in this promise--that no more will there be have and have-nots. No more will there be some who can and some who can't.

So on 9/11, a day that polarized this nation far more than any other, I do remember this promise, and I hold out my hope that the delivery is on its way. 9/11 made a lot of people Nationalists. 9/11 made me an ACTIVIST. I realized that I loved this country so much that I wanted to help make it better. I wanted to do what I could to help it make good on its promise.

So today I reflect on the 5000 people that--whether or not they believed the promise would ever come true--will never get to see if it does come true. I think of the damage and destruction we waged upon the third world leading up to that day, and whether or not we can make good on our promise if we continue exploiting poorer nations around the world.

I also reflect that--regardless of how justified or unjustified their anger is--Al Qaida makes no such promise. Flaws aside, America has a goal that seeks to create a heaven here on earth, and I for one think that that is a fantastic goal.

Its on its way. I'm a patient man. If I have to wait another 100 years for it, I will.


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