September 121th (sic)

The world did change today –
Why or how, I cannot say;
I’m just recalling all those gruesome pictures –
those portraits of pure misery, hate –
and all those scientific lectures
from people who can only speak, when it’s too late.

A plane, a building;
A plane, a building;
Insane, this whole thing:
All those people, just working –
talking, looking out the window
that would become their last painting.

A plane, a building;
Insane, this whole thing:
those paintings and the colors they’d show –
explosions of steel and glass,
forming storms of which we did not know –
The world will never become the way it was;

Because the world did change today –
and its silence leaves us with nothing left to say.

© R.P. Sinke, 09/12*/2001


I’ve been looking all day for my own written memories regarding the September 11 attacks – nine years ago, by now. Sure enough, I’ve scribbled the occasional pamphlet mentioning this catastrophe every few paragraphs for one reason or the other – and yes: later poems and manuscripts refer to it directly or through metaphors… But the actual emotions and original feelings – as events unfolded before our collective eyes – seemed to have rendered me immobile in terms of actual writing for hours (one could say “days”) on an end. All that remained was to watch in disbelieve.

It’s strange how one can remember lots of details from that day quite vividly – yet, apparently, things were developing too quickly (during the actual events) for me to get anything down on paper right there and then. It took me till 3AM that night to produce this rather flimsy and uninspiring poem – it’s all I’ve got directly-linked to 9/11/2001, though. In retrospect, I’m glad to have something relatively tangible dating back to exactly nine years ago. Plus, that day was as imperfect as they come – a sloppily-written piece of pointless poetry seems to fit the profile quite appropriately.

It feels appropriate to post this poem on the same date and time when it was finished – leaving two blank spaces in my blog-calendar as a consequence. It helps me go back to a time where it was still September 11 in America, whereas my agenda had already flipped that page to move on to the 12th. Which reminds* me…

Very telling is the fact that I misspelled the poem’s title at first: my hand-written copy reads “September 12th”, with that last digit altered into a “1” later on. I vaguely recall looking at my wristwatch (which had a date indicator on it) in order to tell what the date was – it being past midnight in Europe already, it obviously read “September 12”. You see, during that particular day, I never realized that this particular date would become engraved into my mind as such – as, well, a date rather than by means of some sort of gruesome nickname (“Bloody Tuesday” might have been possible just as well, for instance).

Memories like these add to the authenticity of this otherwise useless collection of simple rhymes. As does the incorrect phrasing “September 11th” – it’s supposed to be either “The 11th of September” or simply “September 11”, if I’m not mistaken. Makes me wonder what this post will look like 9 years from now.

The fact that this particular poem was written in English is purely coincidental too, by the way. I had spent my holiday in France that summer, experimenting with English poetry-writing for the first time on the sandy beaches of Saint-Aygulf (recently flushed away by severe flooding). Writing in French had proven too tough, while writing in Dutch seemed boorish and inappropriate; in the end, I chose English as some sort of a compromise. I kept at it for a few more weeks after having arrived back home safely – waking up in the warm light of day of September 11, 2001 eventually.

This was the day when I realized that Afghanistan wasn’t even close to Algeria on the map.

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