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Ani DiFranco's Poem About 9/11

yes,
us people are just poems
we're 90% metaphor
with a leanness of meaning
bordering on hyper-distillation
and once upon a time we were moonshine
rushing down the throat of a giraffe
yes, rushing down the long hallway
despite what the p.a. announcement says
yes, rushing down the long stairs
with the whiskey of eternity fermented and distilled
to eighteen minutes
burning down our throats
down the hall
down the stairs
in a building so tall
that it will always be there
yes, it's part of a pair
there on the bow of noah's ark
the most prestigious couple
just kickin back parked
against a perfectly blue sky
on a morning beatific
in its indian summer breeze
on the day that america
fell to its knees
after strutting around for a century
without saying thank you
or please

and the shock was subsonic
and the smoke was deafening
between the setup and the punch line
cuz we were all on time for work that day
we all boarded that plane for to fly
and then while the fires were raging
we all climbed up on the windowsill
and then we all held hands
and jumped into the sky
and every borough looked up when it heard the first blast
and then every dumb action movie was summarily surpassed
and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar
looked more like war than anything i've seen
so far
so fierce and ingenious
a poetic specter so far gone
that every jackass newscaster was struck dumb and stumbling
over 'oh my god' and 'this is unbelievable' and on and on and on
and i'll tell you what, while we're at it
you can keep the pentagon
keep the propaganda
keep each and every tv
that's been trying to convince me
to participate in some prep school punk's plan to perpetuate retribution
perpetuate retribution
even as the blue toxic smoke of our lesson in retribution is still hanging in the air
and there's ash on our shoes
and there's ash in our hair
and there's a fine silt on every mantle
from hell's kitchen to brooklyn
and the streets are full of stories
sudden twists and near misses
and soon every open bar is crammed to the rafters
with tales of narrowly averted disasters
and the whiskey is flowin
like never before
as all over the country, folks just shake their heads
and pour

so here's a toast to all the folks who live in palestine
and iraq, and el salvador
here's a toast to the folks living on the pine ridge reservation
with gi joe still coming back for more
here's a toast to all those nurses and doctors
who daily provide women with a choice
who stand down a threat the size of oklahoma city
just to listen to a young woman's voice
here's a toast to all the folks on death row right now
awaiting hot oil or guillotine
who are shackled there with dread and can only escape into their heads
to find peace in the form of a dream

cuz take away our playstations and we are a third world nation
under the thumb of some blue blood royal son
who bought the oval office in that phony election
and i'll tell you what, while we're at it
let me state unequivocally
he is not president of me
he is not president of me
cuz i am a poem heeding hyper-distillation
i've got no room for a lie so verbose
i'm looking out over my whole human family
and i'm raising my glass in a toast

here's to our last drink of fossil fuels
let us vow to get off of this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that train ticket we lost
cause once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
where laundry was waving
and graffiti was teasing us from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
through valleys
under stars
i dream of touring like duke ellington in my own railroad car

i dream of waiting on the big wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform and feeling the air on my face

give back the night its distant whistle
give the darkness back its soul
give the big oil companies the finger finally
and relearn how to rock-n-roll
yes, the lessons are all around us and the truth is waiting there
so it's time to pick through the rubble, clean the streets
and clear the air
get our government to pull its big dick out the sand
of someone else's desert
put it back in its pants
and quit the hypocritical chants of "freedom forever!"

cuz when one lone phone rang
in two thousand and one
at ten after nine
on nine one one
which is the number we all called
when that lone phone rang right off the wall
right off our desk and down the long hall
down the long stairs
in a building so tall
that the whole world turned
just to watch it fall

and while we're at it, remember the first time around?
the bomb?
the ryder truck?
the parking garage?
the princess that didn't even feel the pea?
remember joking around in our apartment on avenue D?

can you imagine how many paper coffee cups would have to change their design
following a fantastical reversal of the new york skyline!

it was a joke, of course
it was a joke
at the time
and that was just a few years ago
so let the record show that the FBI was all over that case
that the plot was obvious and in everyone's face
and scoping that scene
religiously
the CIA
(or is it the KGB?)
committing countless crimes against humanity
with this kind of eventuality
as it's excuse
for abuse after expensive abuse
and it didn't have a clue
look, another window to see through
way up here
on the 104th floor
look
another key
another door
10% literal
90% metaphor
5000 some poems disguised as people
on an almost too perfect day
must be more than just pawns
in some asshole's passion play
so now it's your job
and it's my job
to make it that way
to make sure they didn't die in vain
listen...
baby
hear the train?



                        --ani difranco, 2001

My visit to Ground Zero
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