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The Sunday Salon: Reading the Names

The Sunday Salon.comI was going to do a Sunday Salon post about how I didn’t do any reading this week and setting some personal reading resolutions. But I started watching a live stream of the September 11 ceremony in New York City and now it just feels strange to do that.

Florinda (The 3rs Blog) wrote a lovely TSS post today about how September 11 reminds us of how important it is to connect with others, which is true. It’s not a day I ever want to spend by myself, or one where I don’t want to take some time to see how other people are remembering, reflecting, and honoring others.

Later tonight, Michael Perry — author of Coop, Truck: A Love Story, and Population 485, among other projects — will be speaking in Glenwood, a town about 30 minutes from where I live now, in a September 11 remembrance ceremony. The newspaper hosting the event posted a long interview with Perry, which I highly encourage you to go read. It’s quite long, but I think the last third is especially thoughtful. I’ll try to post something about the event between BBAW excitement this week.

Someone in the ceremony just read an except from a poem by Billy Collins, “The Names,” which is also quite beautiful, so I suppose I’ll just finish out this post with that:

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night. 
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze, 
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows, 
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened, 
Then Baxter and Calabro, 
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place 
As droplets fell through the dark. 
Names printed on the ceiling of the night. 
Names slipping around a watery bend. 
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream. 
In the morning, I walked out barefoot 
Among thousands of flowers 
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears, 
And each had a name — 
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal 
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins. 
Names written in the air 
And stitched into the cloth of the day. 
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox. 
Monogram on a torn shirt, 
I see you spelled out on storefront windows 
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city. 
I say the syllables as I turn a corner — 
Kelly and Lee, 
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor. 
When I peer into the woods, 
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden 
As in a puzzle concocted for children. 
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash, 
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton, 
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple. 
Names written in the pale sky. 
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings. 
Names silent in stone 
Or cried out behind a door. 
Names blown over the earth and out to sea. 
In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows. 
A boy on a lake lifts his oars. 
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle, 
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds — 
Vanacore and Wallace, 
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound) 
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z. 
Names etched on the head of a pin. 
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel. 
A blue name needled into the skin. 
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers, 
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son. 
Alphabet of names in a green field. 
Names in the small tracks of birds. 
Names lifted from a hat 
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue. 
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory. 
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeanne September 11, 2011, 10:09 am

    A very good poem for today. Thanks.

  • Christy (A Good Stopping Point) September 11, 2011, 11:29 am

    I heard this poem being read this morning too on the radio, but mostly the last part. Thanks for posting it today.

    • Kim September 14, 2011, 8:06 pm

      I just heard the last part during the ceremony too; I can’t remember who read it.

  • Amy September 11, 2011, 1:16 pm

    This poem is really beautiful, thank you! I also enjoyed the interview with Michael Perry. I remember reading about Coop but then, unfortunately forgot about it. It sounds very interesting and I thought Perry was pretty cool in the interview…are you going to Glenwood to hear him speak?

    I hope you enjoy your Sunday, Kim

    • Kim September 14, 2011, 8:06 pm

      I did go to Glenwood to hear him. I’m going to try to write about it in Sunday Salon this week, after all the BBAW madness wears down 🙂

  • Jenny September 11, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Lovely poem for today, thanks for sharing it.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) September 11, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Beautiful post Kim.

  • Deb Nance at Readerbuzz September 11, 2011, 5:11 pm

    Thank you for this post.

  • Colleen September 11, 2011, 5:50 pm

    Beautiful post. I live by myself but found I chose to do a number of things today that would put me in the company of others. Like you, I didn’t want to be alone.

    • Kim September 14, 2011, 8:07 pm

      It felt strange to be by myself for parts of the day, like I’d just sort of wallow in it. It was nice to get out to the ceremony in the evening.