Trish Shields — The Earth Stood Still

the earth stood still

got a phone call from a friend telling us to turn on the tv
we'd been asleep
it was just after 7:00 am
saw reports on the plane that hit the first tower
then the second one erupted
with the pentagon close behind

spent the day glued to the tv
each report more fantastic and harrowing than the last
not an aviation disaster
an assault on freedom of the highest magnitude
my wife cried herself to sleep

the second day fleshed out the truth - they had lived amongst us
walking the same streets, smiling the same smile
and all the while hating and plotting
I feel so cold and lost

discovered heroes come in many shapes and sizes
and in the most extraordinary places
riding a ready-made bomb like some rogue bull
but the reins were held by those who could make a difference

war is declared, invading my dreams
why sleep when pain and death is all I see?
but the country is too busy closing ranks to mourn
scurrying in orderly fashion
showing the world the beauty of a perfectly executed march
to the beat of a drummer echoing the response to 1941

watched a president cry today, the third day in hell
where pieces of dreams were mixed with blood and bone
shattered and spent all too quickly for one brief moment
when 'they' showed us passion and we showed them resolve

the tally mounts, the wreckage almost too horrible to contemplate
safer to simply look at the smaller pieces, lodging the rest in
the darkest recesses of our souls
'how could this be' and other questions boil to the surface
hatred lashes out, here and abroad
leaving such a dirty taste in my mouth
reducing the whole event to simply the act of a bully
there is no winning

four days of ash and pain now turn to hard steel
everyone in congress says his piece
peace just a word used before the eleventh
when such things were always possible
and now very improbable

president bush makes a point of walking slowly
from his helicopter to the white house
in full view, unafraid, undaunted
unwilling to be cowed
he cautions the world
a declaration is voiced, 'stand with us or stand against us'
there is no middle ground and my skin feels too tight

more information splashed across the screen
twenty men willing to die,
planning this destruction for a
long time, all under one man, his name conjuring up images
associated with hitler, saddam, khadafi
mindless despots who know nothing but pain
theirs and ours

dark clouds of ash and wreckage are highlighted
reducing life to merely a reflection of art
something with speilberg written all over it
- a circus of the surreal

people talk about how much worse it could have been
and bush says this war will not be fought easily or quickly
and I wonder how death and destruction can be measured
how right do we have to be before we are wrong?

my emotions are so raw, so bi-polar
wanting to strike out and yet understanding
that it only feeds the flames

I've left my bed though cnn has replaced the usual music
playing in the background
we are rarely farther away than the tv now
our eyes darting up from the crawl to the images on
the big screen, our hearts in our mouths
I try to get back into my routine after six days
but when I look into the clear blue sky
I see towers aflame
and only my tears are strong enough to erase
the image, my only solace the realization that
it didn't happen here, couldn't happen here
but knowing terrorism knows no flag
only a way of life

a week now and I'm still numb
how many tears can one person shed?
the feats of heroism match that number easily
and it's the only strength I feel these days

knowing it wasn't an isolated incident
not just aimed at the stars and stripes
but at the world according to freedom
has me very unsettled
life as we know it
all changed as we hold our collective breath
the world has moved on

(c) Trish Shields