Thursday, September 15, 2011

“Ten Years Later,” A 9/11 Poem by Marlenas McMahon-Purk

(Photo taken by Marlenas McMahon-Purk on Sept. 11, 2001)

On the day of the recent earthquake, a friend of mine called the reaction of uneasy New Yorkers “pathetic.” A decade ago, as a student at Stuyvesant High School, I was only four small city blocks from the Twin Towers on 9/11, with a rare, unimpeded view of the horrors of that day. We were inside our school when the second building collapsed (when the above picture was taken) and felt the building shake, saw the lights flicker. Tower 1 was falling as we evacuated, but the debris was falling so fast and we had to run from the smoke. So, as you can imagine, on the day of the earthquake, when my office building was evacuated, I couldn't help relieving the incredible uneasiness of my 9/11 experience. Despite my attempts to evoke understanding in my friend, I was startled by a general lack of compassion for my experience with trauma. I ask not for sympathy, but understanding, at the very least.

“Ten Years Later,” by Marlenas McMahon-Purk

The guilt that accompanies posttraumatic stress disorder begets itself
It is the magic of a starfish turned into something ugly
Where regeneration generally signifies life and rebirth,
Every leg of guilt is merely an adjunct to the body of the PTSD starfish
And every successful excision is a hidden future failure
Leading to the introduction of a new feeling of guilt,
Familiar, because it is still a leg,
But new because it slightly differs from the guilt once had

Trauma is castanets that start slowly, rhythmically
Completely attuned to your auditory aesthetic
Increasing to a rate aligned with the tachycardia pulsating through your atrioventricular canal
Now-marauding palpitations demanding you to hear,
An involuntary listener from valve to vein
In an aching atrium in the
amplified amphitheater of the heart

Trauma is vengeful and unforgiving
It does not seek truth or progress like people can
PTSD is addicted to itself
It is its own trigger
It is the herpes of the mind
Trauma lies dormant until you’re absolutely convinced that you’re in the clear for an emotional flare-up

And you knew, friend, that 9/11 was but one of my traumas

Trauma is desperately needing a muhfuckin benzo when there is
Not a Xanax, not a Klonopin, not an Ativan, not a Valium in sight.

It is the feeling at the precipice of inspiration, the birth of a good idea, quelled and internalized into an aborted thought that will not bleed out, the once-life now a paralysis anything but peripheral

Trauma is shock-value advertising for its own propaganda

I left work early today
I left school early nearly 10 years ago to the date
Another Tuesday, no less
Another beautiful Tuesday, to be more precise
I’m already embarrassed about being a grown-ass woman still affected by this shit

An evacuation is not just an exit to me
I see New York as the dormant Middle East
With good reason

September 11th wasn’t just a day
It was the birth of fear exploitation

And it worked
Like soldiers programmed to attack,
My autonomic nervous system is armed with ammunition
To attack me
…And it works

I feel like a bitch
I feel like a bitch for being unable to relate my feelings to my coworkers
Whether New Yorkers
Or “New” New Yorkers, to put it kindly

Truthfully, the only people who I feel comfortable sharing with are the two women who ran with me down the west side highway
I Usain Bolted my life
By foot back to Chelsea
With each hand held in solidarity,
One foot in front of the other
One girl, feel bleeding in stilettos,
Because at age 16
She didn’t expect to have to run from the sweetheart skyscrapers of New York

But please,
Make jokes in times of emergency
Say things like “Emergencies can be fun sometimes!”
Dripping with suburban privilege

While we evacuate the building
I only WISH my mind could check out
I only WISH I could have the same emotional emptying
But instead, I feel like a bitch

How do you explain to your job that the mere thought of having to forcibly leave the building is enough for a panic attack?
...because of something that happened 10 years ago?

Panic, which semantically lends itself to colloquial sentiments of
frivolous hysteria
Which lends itself to metapanic:
Feeling guilty about involuntarily instilled instincts

I just want a day when—whether AM or PM—9:11 is just a time

Yet it’s 9:11 every time I look on the clock
On the conspiracy theory of time

Trauma never has time for me
But there’s always time for trauma
Her watch, which defies the conventions of general cognition and behavior
Her watch, which is really a multifunction clock—
It stops time, it resets your time
And owns all time in between

And then you realize
You’ve just been playing chess with the grandmaster this whole time
When I hit the clock, it’s trauma’s move,
But it doesn’t guarantee my next one

…And until 9:11 is just a time again,
It has me

I’m not here to play the “I have it worse” game
Because like many games will delude you into thinking so,
No one wins this game

My question to you is this, though:
What was your trauma that shaped you to be so callous as to wear presumptuousness like a mime wears suspenders
Self-identifying as one who acts without speaking and who wears proudly her costume,
But suspending aggressive retorts to my pain,
But still assuming that things must be black and white
Because of the clear binary in the stripes of your makeup
But, mimes are misunderstood if nothing else,
Because they act without speaking

So I wonder
If you could speak from behind the outfit
Who would your mime mime?
Marseau surely saw
Parcels of Marcel
Who are you under “you?”
Rather—why are you under you
Because you’re fucking yourself
As long as you lack compassion
So, why don’t you hear me—
And then speak…without acting?
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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this... I too was only a few city blocks away at south street seaport (where I lived and worked) that day. I wrote an 11 part poem on that awful day. I have been posting one installment each since the 10th anniversary, I'm up to #5.
    Peace and best wishes to you, Marlenas.