Indelible Nation

I don’t remember going to sleep on September 10th sixteen years ago.
If I even gave it a thought, I may have dreamed of an America triumphant
From a Cold War that stood for things like freedom and opportunity.
Those who opposed “Us” were fossilizing relics of worn-out ideologies
That were too irrelevant to spend time trying to understand.

I laughed when I heard that a plane had flown into the first tower:
“What an idiot!” There was toner on my hands from the homework I printed.
By the time I managed to sleep that night, the world I thought I knew
Was dead. Plummeted to the ground – head-first and serene – my myths
Exchanged; refashioned from splintered metal shards and vengeful ashes.

I remember what I dreamed, and felt guilty that it was so mundane.

Were a vision of reality to haunt me that night, I would not have believed
That in sixteen years’ time, I would ride across the Potomac on a train
To work my shift one hundred steps from where another plane melted.
With every head bowed and every eye closed off to the pink sunrise cast
On the Pentagon’s walls, glowing phones stole the daybreak whisper.

“What is this nation I thought I knew?” has been a recurring nightmare.
Serving a nation is sacrificing your life to an idea, a dream, an ideal
Worth more than missed birthdays, bucketlisted fantasies, fleeting youth.
You can lose yourself in its story: “Never forget” a canvas, a screen, a song
That can switch like an app from hopeful audacity to American carnage.

All night long, I kept trying to get the dark stains off my hands.

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