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Sept. 11: One year after

Today's date
Under attack
Globe and Boston.com coverage from September 11, 2001

Robert Pinsky

They manufacture newsprint with a grain,
So you can tear straight down a vertical column.
But if you try to tear it crosswise, it rips
Out of control, in jagged scallops and slashes,
Serrated chaos like the blocks of smoking ruin.
Here amid columns is a man who handles
Search dogs. He says the dogs depend on rewards.
But not like the dogs I know, not dog treats: the Lab
Who'll balance one on his muzzle, trembling and gazing
Up at you till you say "okay!" and then he whips
It into the air and snaps it and bolts it whole.
No, what the handler says is that his dogs
Are trained to find survivors--that's their reward,
Finding somebody alive is what they want.
And when they try and try and never get it,
They get depressed, he says: "These dogs are depressed."
Yes, what an animal thing depression is,
The craving for some redemption is like a thirst.
It's in us as we open the morning paper:
Fresh, fallible, plausible. It says the smoke
Was mostly not paper or flesh. First white, the drywall,
Then darker pulverized steel and granite and marble,
And then, long-smouldering toxic plastic and fiber.
In the old days, the printing plant and "the paper"
(Meaning the Globe or Herald or Journal or Times)
Were in one building, and the tremendous rolls
Of newsprint tumbled off the trucks each day.
When I was small one crushed a newsboy's legs.
There was a fund for him, I remember his picture
Accepting a powered wheelchair or special crutches.
His name would be in the files of the Daily Record.
The one-way grain is like the irrevocable,
Downward river of time set into channels.
Words broadcast on the air don't seem as solid.
Paper--the bread of Chronos, titanic Time
That eats its children. And the crosswise jumble
That won't tear straight unless you cut it is like
Darkness innate in things. The weather. The boy
Who beams up at the camera or down at his stumps.
The prisoner who speaks an unknown language
So that his captors guess and call him "the Chechen."
The errant, granular pulp. In some old stories,
The servant rises early and reads the paper,
Then gets the iron and presses it flat and smooth
To place by the master's breakfast--the skin of days.

© Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

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