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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter

My Poem for September 11th … (written in 2001)

It was published as a broadside by From Here Press:

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Penny Harter


Smoke still rises from the rubble as the city shifts toward autumn. We continue to count the missing and the dead.

Images sear the membranes of our eyelids, instant replays burning our days and nights.


Stumbling from their school, running ahead of the tsunami of smoke and debris churning down Manhattan streets,

the children screamed, some of them crying that mommy or daddy worked in the Tower where they saw fire and smoke.

One child, looking up at bodies falling from great height, called out, “Look, teacher, the birds are on fire!”


Peregrine falcons nest in the city’s canyons, raising their young on cliffs that we have made.

They swoop to take pigeons, their sharp wings glinting as they dive—midst pollution, power lines, and helicopters.

Sometimes they mistake skyscraper windows for the sky.


Peregrinus—Latin for wanderer. Inhabiting every continent except Antarctica, peregrines wander through our voices from antiquity:

dwetalbur hayabusa karimpullu kirgavik noded pèlerin pellegrino peregrino perigkrin pilgrimsfalk sapsan shaheen slechtvalk slegvalk ukhetshe vandrefalk wanderfalke yóusŭn

Ancient Egyptians saw the peregrine at dawn, at dusk, carrying the rising sun, the setting sun.

Soaring above the smoke of the City, the sun in its feathers— a different kind of fire—

peregrine sees river, ocean, the arc of the horizon.

And we go on.


Some of our names for the peregrine falcon appear in the following languages, in order: Nyunga, Japanese, Malayalam, Iñupiat, Hebrew, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Swedish, Russian, Arabic, Dutch, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Nordish, German, Mandarin.

Copyright © 2001 Penny Harter. Published as a broadside by From Here Press.

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