9/11 A Little Ramshackle Shack Parts 1-4


A little ramshackle shack on a hill
blown apart by the wind
door roof and walls lofted aloft and sent flying
no weightier than paper upon which is casually written
a name
twists in the air almost signals goodbye then
suddenly is gone only
bare hillside left behind
a goat now stands upon

two goats a small herd after the wind’s died down
straggle along distractedly

Madame X is led out to the guillotine where a
head once encircled by ermine on a tall neck once
encircled by strings of pearls and glittering diamonds
rolls like a dark pearl into a basket its
eyes rolled heavenward its body relaxed
backward like a flung necklace onto a
marble tabletop in an
empty room after the
ball is over

(NOTE: At first I had no intention of writing a poem about the event, and was bereft of thoughts toward any poem, stunned as everyone, with convulsions of feelings. The first part above came as metaphoric, irrational, that I now see in aspects of our essential transience, ourselves and our buildings, gone in a flash… the first shock I think we all felt in some way. The great New York fortress of permanence and wealth, now vanished. Then Madame X, like the nobility of the French Revolution, summarily executed, justice waived, a sudden blow to the grand ball of American might, now irrevocably vulnerable. But these hard and emblematic images are not the human story of actual deaths that day, taken up in Part 2.)


Imagine the precise and daunting gears and
levers of the decree that led to all those innocent
people meeting death at the World Trade Center in
New York September 11, 2001
all the little accumulating gestures and maneuvers that
put them at their desks on schedule in time to die
the horrific fireball of the angel of death who may have
appeared to them all at the last as
cool refreshing waterfalls of light or open
delightful corridors leading to emerald green
gardens so bright with joy they forgot completely
how they got there

We all wonder how we’ll die
hoping for a soft bed in a warmly lit room surrounded by
loved ones after a short and not too uncomfortable
illness a kind of light cough or a
stitch in the side and that’s all
never imagining falling to the ground from 110 stories in the air
or twisted in molten steel like a tyrant’s cage
in suffocating smoke


The high school diplomas the happy
vacation moments in Cancun across a turquoise pool
the epiphanies while reading Moby Dick
the birthday banquets with long-lost relatives
the recent wedding or long-awaited love letter received

It’s a lone figure in a woolen hat on a sheer white hillside
whose coat trails the ground and whose
footprints evaporate once the meeting’s taken place

It’s unfathomable and beyond any human
words devised to describe it
and for all those souls lost in the New York disaster
whose accidental but destined martyrdom is absolutely assured
(except ironically to the fanatically deluded
hell-bound perpetrators of the unthinkable
disaster itself)

there are coats of eiderdown so soft and pearls so ethereally gorgeous
so filled with subatomic music that pours out of
every gap in their weave to envelop the air in
ecstatic choir

And the divine shadow of Truth moves aside to let pour
a radiance so pure every moment set in motion in time
one step after another year after year that led to their
being there in the right place at the
supreme right time
suddenly becomes a series of perfect stepping stones like floating
lily pads over deep black water to a Paradise even our
most ornate imaginations cannot adequately imagine

(NOTE: This section is thinking the unthinkable, that those who died that day were us, in so many ways, but in deeply personal detailed ways, which made it all the more raw and poignant. This was our American Tragedy, inflicted by a concatenation of rationales, but suffered wholesale by innocents. But by our beloved Prophet’s statements, peace of Allah be upon him, such deaths warranting Paradise, while “ironically” the opposite for such idealogue perpetrators, deluded that such a Paradise is for them. But Allah knows best.  

This morning musing on the enigmatic first part of this poem, I thought about the goats left in the buildings’ void, and recalled, for the first time all these years later, the words of the Hadith regarding Signs of the End of Time that one is “ragged herders of goats vying with each other in building tall buildings…” or words to that effect.


People are very involved with having
faces and eyes and thoughts of their own and
smells in the odorous parts of their
bodies where the human anatomy dictates

They move with a certain self-consciousness which is sometimes
nonchalant and at other times unnatural
they can feel their spines hunched or vertically straight
and how their rib-cages make room for their

People are curious capsules of atmospheres and internal weathers
and at complete ease are either blessed with expansive
horizons or cursed with tics and foibles that
intensely constrain them
a consciousness that may include the Serengeti for example with
all its wild flora and fauna or the
bleached out and tattered prospect of simply
four walls a ceiling and a floor

Young ones often betray a jumpy and eager quality
old ones a sleepy and generally exhausted quality though they
may achieve beneficence from time to time as their
bones creak and their nerves ache

But each one is categorically a cosmos and has vivid
cosmological thinking and a deep appreciation of its consequences
and each one experiences the end of the
world when death appears like a
yawning sea to drown them in its

drawing back within it the
essence of their beauty

(NOTE: This third part may seem redundant of the second part, but in retrospect it seem I may not have felt I’d quite thrown myself inside the people lost with enough empathy, and have now doubled down, as it were, on our essential humanness, the spirit of humanness. As Whitman said, “I am a cosmos,” and as Allah in the Qur’an has stated, “if someone kills another person — unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth — it is as if he had murdered all mankind [5:32],” and the Sufis say, “Man is a little cosmos, and the cosmos is a big man.”

So this section of the poem is a rhapsody of the innermost reality of each person born, which we all instinctively know in our own humanity, and can clearly see and know directly through the vision of our hearts.)


This is the music space
where music is most difficult
this place of joy and horror
sound of fuselage entering steel as if
slicing through butter

This is the silence out of which
all the thrilling chords emerge

This is the space of the silence of souls
at their moment of release

This is the air over a dewy wheat field
crackling like cellophane in the morning light

This is the music space
voices in a room of those
visible and those who are invisible

I think the music of the spheres
can be heard in this space

It’s the sound of life
which takes place without echo
or is nothing but echo

And the original sound is the
sound of God alone audible to Himself
and we are the humming elements of that sound

This is the music space
we hear it this very moment

It’s the sound of hooves
and nothing at all like the sound of hooves

It’s the endlessly heaving ocean-sound
which turns out to be our blood beating
and the deep tidal push of our own heartbeats

Each whisper of love and fear and grief
rises in this music space

And one single note is enough to fill it

And silence itself is part of it

And the silence or the sound that follows it
is also part of it

9/15-16 (from The Music Space)

(NOTE: I first read this poem in its entirety in public at an event produced by the New York ASMA Society in Grace Cathedral, January 19, 2002, Reflections at a Time of Transformation. Faced with the unspeakable, with some people shocked out of their beliefs and others suddenly unjustly held responsible for having beliefs (and I don’t mean the fanatic ones), this final part lifts into another realm, a music space, with the first three parts providing its human foundation, with God willing a sense of His overarching Majesty and Beauty over all.)

Categories: Poems, Essays