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The Names


Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds -
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers, and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

~Billy Collins

I don't know if this is true for you, but often in times of tragedy I find myself turning to the arts, staring at paintings or an insightful photograph, most often executed in black and white. For me, they are the most powerful. It appears that the media, at least in the U.S. are trying to mark the events of 9/11 that resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 victims from dozens of countries, and more than 6,000 wounded, differently than they have in the past. Personal stories are being shared, youth who have inherited this day of remembrance are being asked to respond to its impact on their lives, some partners who lost a loved one are talking about the need for forgiveness. Perhaps there is a willingness to go beyond just observing to search for solutions that will bring about more lasting results. I have a feeling that, globally, people have been slapped with more than they feel they can handle. Afghanistan, COVID and its Delta variant, and climate change bring us the realization that it is here and isn't going to go away. What to do? The founder of the Charter for Compassion, Karen Armstrong, told us that we can turn to compassion. That means something. A starting point could be taking Compassionate Integrity Training. Another starting point is to imagine a new story for our future and to truly think "peace." It is far more difficult than war, but the challenge is presented as an option for all of us. We can't beat the global pandemic unless the world is free of the virus. We can't stop terrorism until we deal with financial equity. Equity, quite the word. If we had more of it, how would we be?

The poem above, 'Names," written by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, was read to Congress a year following the Twin Tower, Pentagon and Shankville attacks. Just as personal stories make the events clearer, as Collins wrote, there is barely room on the heart.
Read a personal story related to 9/11 by Terry Greene, a member of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows whose brother, Donald F. Greene, died aboard United Flight 93. She is a Public Health Consultant and Cambridge Peace Commission honoree who lives in Massachusetts.

With warm regards,


This message from Marilyn Turkovich, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion, appears in our 09/12/2021 weekly newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, scroll all the way down to the end of this page to get to the bottom menu, in the newsletter section enter your email address and click on subscribe. 

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Comments 1

Guest - Wendela Hasselaar on Wednesday, 15 September 2021 02:50

We do need help. All of us

We do need help. All of us
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