fairfield, iowa | interviewed 2-20-2002
"Something Visceral" poem
In this amber cubical on earth,
on a Thursday evening as it rains,
in a library near the books that deal
with the Mafia and finance,
as the trade centers lie in smoke and ruin,
I in Iowa with a few voices
and answers speaking to nothing
immediately near: the seeds the squirrels hoard,
the grasses still green, the apples
luxuriant again following a foul year.
Can we believe it all to end too soon?
We who feel, who can't let go of the body,
so it becomes the only song we sing,
though the rapture extends its great fiery arms,
though it extends its engulfing sleeves,
and the Lord smiles, and everything these
Jehovah's witnesses painted on their pamphlets
comes true, still
we the singers, the true sinners and lovers
of earth, remain coaxing a tyrant death
to sleep with our silent sibilance,
our thoughts, our rhythms and shaking,
though our teeth become castanets
and our intestines the strings
of hideous guitars,
we sing, we sing, and we
will not let go.
copyright © 2001 Rustin Larson | All Rights Reserved
We're just watching this all happen. The first tower's on fire, and then we see the second plane coming into the other tower. Nobody's saying anything. I'm feeling a feeling of unreality. How could this possibly be happening? Is this going to escalate? How bad will this get? And suddenly, a lot of things that I was obsessing on just didn't seem important anymore. For that day, poetry wasn't important anymore. What good does anything you write or anything that has been written going to do anyone, if you don't have peopleif you don't have a world to live in. And so, my fear was running away with itself that day.
The sky here was a perfect blue, and the sky in New York was beautiful, too. It was a wonderful day. My sister, who lives in New York, was outside, very close to the trade towers. She was going out to tend flowers at a park therea park where she goes and practices T'ai Chi on weekends. She was describing this just horrific noisethe first plane hitting the north tower. And it's just incredible. It's just unthinkable, yet it happened.
That day I couldn't get through to her at all. But I did after a couple of days and found out how close she was. She did wind up getting covered with the soot when the buildings collapsed. And for days, she'd hear the explosions over and over and over and over again.
We all were in Indianola and just about to sit down to dinner, and we heard that the bombing was beginning. You know, there was a part of me, from the angry part of me, that thought, how could anyone just kill thousands of people just like all at once like thatthat I think part of me was glad. But then, I looked around at my children, and then I felt ashamed. Is that the only way?
You definitely think differently about being an American when someone like Osama bin Laden says, Wherever there are Jews or Americans, they are targets. Well, here we are in America, so I guess we're a very large target. But I wasn't going to go to the Army Recruiters' office to join after that event. We need people like that. But we also need people that are compassionate and that will seek other avenues of improving things on this earth.
Why don't we take that path more often? Why do we drop bombs? And then againokay, there's the Holocaust. They'd say, that's the result of people not defending themselves, people not fighting when they should have fought. No easy answer. Still, I am drawn to non-combative possibilities, responsesa belief that there's still a way of affecting world policy that way.
The artist will heal themselves, and then the artwork will help those that view it or listen to it become stronger, be healed. And the artist is there, I think, just to say, things are going to go on. We will keep on creating, because there will be a world to create things in, because the world is continually creating. And we're here to praise it; we're here to point out the beauties of it, and to show people that that's the important thing despite horror that happens. Again, the important thing is the simple thingsthings that make your life worth living. Those are stronger than anything that can try to destroy us.
Rustin Larson was born (1959) and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, the third of four children. He happened upon a creative writing class during his senior year in high school, and his interest in writing remained.
He earned a B.A. in Literature from Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Norwich University, Montpelier, Vermont. He has taught writing in a variety of settings.
He is a published poet and writer, including Loving the Good Driver (Mellen Poetry Press), a book-length collection of poems.
He lives in Fairfield, Iowa, with his wife and three daughters.
I remember years back being handed by a Jehovah's Witness a pamphlet that was illustrated with a scene of the final rapture. In the scene, cars were crashing everywhere, people were lying in the streets, bleeding, and dominating the scene was the image of an airliner crashing head-on into a skyscraper. That image impressed me then, but I filed it back in my mind and really didn't think about it again until I turned on the television on the morning of September 11, 2001. And then the thought occurred, "What if they are right? What if this is it?" I'm stubborn, though, and I decided I'm not going anywhere. I still believe the world can be transformed utterly into a paradise. I believe humanity is going to make it over this hump and the days ahead will be bright. And if they aren't, I still love earth enough to keep whispering or screaming my love to it until the final moment.