By Karen Karpowich
the trees are the same as they were
before September 11.
When I walk leaves still fall.
I even wear the same shoes.
But I was younger before
I'd never walked in the Rambles
fearful I'd get lost
too proud to admit that I could.
Now I have fierceness, ready
to find a fresh trail or a new landmark.
I feel more beautiful these days.
My skin smoother
My heart rugged
When I find a dried leaf
in the pages of my book
I remember why
it was saved.
Every year I go looking for a great poem about 9/11, and every year I find myself disappointed -- I read and read, and whether the poems are by famous poets or people who'd never written a poem before those events, none has made me say, "That's the one." (I should probably add that I have the same problem with fiction about or set during the Holocaust -- the best tends to leave me somewhat cold, not coming anywhere near the unembellished historical accounts in terms of their power to move.) I don't think it's any accident that the only thing I ever wrote about 9/11 mostly concerns something that happened to me in New York two decades earlier. I wonder whether our generation can process it enough to write about it well.
The only event of my Thursday worth talking about -- since I don't watch Supernatural, and unless you want to hear about my penguin's cruise ship -- is Back to School Night. It took place at the holding school where Adam's middle school has taken up residence, and for most parents, it's the first time we've seen the building beyond the exterior and front office. They've changed the names on all the signs there to the name of the school that's being torn down in pieces down the street from our house, but it doesn't feel like the old school, and I don't mean that in a good way. The building may be old but it had mostly been kept in good condition, whereas the new one looks like it hasn't even had a proper paint job in several years, there are holes in the staircase tiles, and the HVAC isn't working properly except in the many portables (where son is lucky enough to have three classes, though when it rains I'm sure "lucky" isn't the word that comes to mind).
Still, the kids seem relatively unfazed by the narrow hallways, horrible stairs, and shortage of windows; the major complaint most parents have heard is about how skinny the lockers are, while the gym lockers can't even fit a pair of shoes. The teachers, who are stuck in this building for two years (unlike my eighth grader who'll be out in June), seem crankier. I had a nice time -- saw David McCutcheon, whom I grew up with since elementary school, who last year was Adam's social studies teacher; discovered that his social studies teacher this year is a friendly woman I met last spring at the old school open house where we actually appeared in a photo together that wound up in the local paper; found out that his math teacher is the mother of another eighth grader and a lot of fun; couldn't understand anything the Chinese teacher was talking about because we were two of three people in the room who weren't native speakers. And realized that I am still afraid of school fire alarms.
New York City in the fog as seen from the Central Park Zoo.