As we recall today the events of September 11, 2001, I thought the following poem by Stanley Plumly would be appropriate to bring again to readers’ attention. “’The Morning America Changed’” first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2002-2003 issue (Volume IV, Number 1) of Valparaiso Poetry Review, and it was later published in Plumly’s excellent 2007 collection of poems, Old Heart (W.W. Norton). Although eight years have now passed since the terrible incidents of that infamous day, Stanley Plumly’s fine poem still resonates with its intimacy and immediacy, and its lines remind me once more of the intense rush of emotional reactions caused by those images seen on television screens all around the world.
“THE MORNING AMERICA CHANGED”
Happened in the afternoon at Villa Serbelloni.
We’d closed up shop on the work for the day
and decided to make the long descent down
the elegant stone switchback path into Bellagio
for coffee and biscotti. It was still Tuesday
and a quarter to three and a good quarter hour
to the exit gate or if you stopped to look
at the snow on the Alps or at “the deepest
lake in all of Italy” or looked both ways
at once—as we say crossing a street—five,
ten minutes longer. This day was longer
because it was especially, if redundantly,
beautiful, with the snow shining and the lake
shining and the big white boats shining
with tourists from Tremezzo and Varenna.
And the herring gulls and swallows at different
layers, shining like mica in the mountain rock.
And the terra cotta tiles of the village roofs
almost shining, almost close enough to touch.
Judith was already in the pasticceria
and I was looking skyward on Via Garibaldi,
the one-way traffic lane circling the town,
when I heard the rain in the distance breaking
and then her voice through the window calling
and then on the tiny screen inside
pillars of fire pouring darkly into clouds.