Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

11 September 2010

Blood Red Pants

(from Google search page, thanks.)

On 9/11/2001,
I was living in Turkey.
I had just returned from
My summer with family in the States.
Only a week previous,
We had celebrated my youngest brother’s wedding
In New York City.
With our new-found family members
(my sister-in-law’s Greek family,
The kind generous people
Who welcomed me so warmly
This past summer)
We had taken the Circle Line Cruise
And enjoyed the Manhattan skyline,
Complete with
Twin Towers.

( photo by Makropoulos )
What a happy day that had been for me,
To be with my whole family,
In New York City,
One of my favorite cities
In the world.
I had lived three and a half very happy years
In that city
While I completed coursework
For my Ph.D., and
I had my own relationship with the
World Trade Center:
One summer I had done temp work in one of the Towers,
For a month or so
On around the 64th floor,
In a bustling stock trading office.
I don’t remember the name of the place.
But I remember the people,
All frenetic, some struggling
To find a human moment
In the bustle of the day.
I remember being amused
By the high-stakes game they were playing,
But only really wanting to watch.
I knew that if I tried to participate,
I’d probably destroy something,
Like somebody’s
Fragile fortune.

I remember my lunch breaks, too,
Sitting out in the heat,
Under the creaking,
Eating my simple sandwich
Every now and then wishing
One of the besuited men
Would take a shine to me
And invite me to lunch.

(But I was newly married then, so I played it safe,
wearing non-descript cotton
and hose.
In the heat,
That’s right.
I wore hose.)

My other memory of the Towers
Was a daily one:
I would step out of my
East 9th Street apartment building
And head West
To my classes.
Crossing 1st Avenue, I could look down
And see them in the distance.
They became my beacon,
My guide,
My reminder that I was headed
In the right direction.

It was very hard to live in New York City
And not have a relationship
With the
Twin Towers.
* *

( alibaba)

On 9/11/2001,
I was living in Turkey.
I had just returned from
In the streets of Ankara.
I loved the new red pants
I had bought
That hugged me
Like hose.
But as pants,
They were far more sexy
Than hose.
Blood red pants.
I still have them.

I came into my apartment,
Turned on my TV,
Always set
Without looking,
Went to the bedroom
And put on my
Blood red pants.

(photo by Makropoulos)

They were very sweet,
And made me smitten
With my own ass.

Returning to the other room,
I saw it:
My lovely city
New York
An aerial view
An airplane flying
And colliding
With a Tower.
Like so many others,
I thought it was a hoax at first,
But then,
I saw the next plane.

When the first Tower
I too
To the ground,
And suddenly
Very alone, and very frightened.

I could see very clearly
How the massive
American Ship of State
Now had a gaping hole
Torn right into its water line,
And all I could think was:
Now all the passengers,
Those US Citizens,
 on board that massive
Ship of State that they thought
Was the Love Boat
Have a clear view of the rest of the world.
What will they see?

They could, if they dared, see very clearly
The position America had come to assume
In the rest of the world.
They could, indeed, if they dared, look closely
At the now imperiled vessel
In which they had blissfully
Floated for nearly a century
And recognize
That it was not the Love Boat after all,
But rather,
A Battleship.
And they could apologize and get on with mending their wounds,
Everyone’s wounds.


They could get really pissed
And fight back
And keep pretending they are on the
Love Boat
When in fact the more they fought
(the more they fight)
The more the rest of the world
Would see their concealed weapons
More clearly,
And watch how frantic they would all become
As the still damaged
Began (and begins) to slowly sink
The Sea of History.

That’s what I thought.
Sometimes my brain
Waxes quite poetically.

If you haven't noticed by now.

* * *

On 9/11/2001,
I was living in Turkey.
I had just returned from
The U.S.A.
I had brought some gifts
For my building’s
(door man, building manager, maintenance man)
A lovely always-smiling man
Which, by the way,
Means “peace”
If you didn’t know that.
It’s often part of a greeting.
I had bought with me a bag full of gifts
For his children,
And he had been so shocked
When I handed them to him.
(In my then very modest Turkish,
I had asked him,
before I left,
how many children he had,
or I thought I asked him that.
After a confused expression, he answered
altı” – six
So I had brought back a bag full of
Six little stuffed animals.
I later learned he had two
And the oldest was
Six, and the question I had posed
Was actually
“How old is your child?”)
Salaam was always smiling at the door of the building,
Or working in the grounds, making them a fabulous garden.
His beautiful wife
Would bring me homemade food
when she had extra.
After the events of 9/11/2001,
Salaam brought me flowers,
And wished me and my country
a quick healing.
People in my building who I did not know
Stopped me in the elevator and on the stairs,
And said they were deeply sorry
For the attack on the
Twin Towers.
That was not, they said,
The true Islam.

Within the year that followed,
When my apartment was broken into
Salaam took personal responsibility for it,
And did all he could to make the building secure.
My neighbors paid to have my door fixed;
They gave me money and food until
I could stabilize myself.

In my independent American Way,
I was embarrassed
and told them
they didn't have to do that.

But a neighbor explained to me
That the moment I moved into their building,
I became a member of their family,
Their community,
And they felt it was their duty
To help and protect me.
It was, this woman said,
The Turkish way,
The True Islamic way,
Not like what happened in New York
On 9/11/2001.

It is 9/11/2010,
And I live in America.
And somewhere
In Florida,
A preacher,
A religious man
A man whose job it is to train his people
About the true nature of God,
And the Peaceful,
Teachings of Jesus Christ
Has threatened to  burn
The Koran –

And I say to you
That man is Not a True Christian.
He should go move
Into a working class apartment complex
In a Muslim country
And see
What a true Christian 
Is supposed to act like.

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