An Old Impulse

I’ve mentioned Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” before. Kate started getting it a while ago and started reading me some of the poetry and literary notes that are part of the daily email. Then she signed me up, and then I signed my dad up. It’s the best day-to-day email “newsletter” I’ve ever gotten and usually superbly written and edited.

A recent example: While I was back in Chicago, I missed the almanac for Sept. 11 (the archiving isn’t ideal; you’ll have to scroll down to find the day’s entry). The poem offered that day was “To a Terrorist,” by Stephen Dunn (from his book “Between Angels“):

“For the historical ache, the ache passed down

which finds its circumstance and becomes

the present ache, I offer this poem

without hope, knowing there’s nothing,

not even revenge, which alleviates

a life like yours. I offer it as one

might offer his father’s ashes

to the wind, a gesture

when there’s nothing else to do.

Still, I must say to you:

I hate your good reasons.

I hate the hatefulness that makes you fall

in love with death, your own included.

Perhaps you’re hating me now,

I who own my own house

and live in a country so muscular,

so smug, it thinks its terror is meant

only to mean well, and to protect.

Christ turned his singular cheek,

one man’s holiness another’s absurdity.

Like you, the rest of us obey the sting,

the surge. I’m just speaking out loud

to cancel my silence. Consider it an old impulse,

doomed to become mere words.

The first poet probably spoke to thunder

and, for a while, believed

thunder had an ear and a choice.”

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