Inner Michael » An Image Speaks (9-11)

An Image Speaks (9-11)


Literally—I could not take my eyes off this image when I first encountered it. As a wordsmith, I am all about ‘story’ and many of you know that is also what Voices Education Project is about—creating peace on the planet one story at a time.

The horror of 9-11 is still fresh ten years on. The images of that day, the feelings, the utter helplessness of watching and the frozen despair—not being able to do anything but limply bear witness. The trauma comes home—the unthinkable reality that the wounds of war and what people are capable of doing to people, would be passed on to yet another generation…

This image, that appeared front page at Voices Education Project, tells it all without a word being uttered. Of course there is the haunting knowledge of what it stands for but there is more. There is the human face of it that overpowers the material destruction, the disintegration of buildings. But in this painting is something more that cannot be put into words… no matter how hard a “wordsmith” might try.

It gives “voice” to the voiceless. It gives honor to a single moment where dishonor devolved humans to tribal, animalistic reducing them to ethno-pathological by the sheer magnitude of that which cannot be held or contained in the human psyche because the pain is too great. It illustrates the pervasive Nihilism in perpetuating the concept of ‘enemy’ without the noise of political rhetoric. It brings a human face to that Nihilism and the cost of human suffering when the human ego demands attention. That’s the thing that stuns and assaults the psyche… that this event came from the blueprint of one mind, the internal desperation of one ego feeling slighted and the group that gathered round it in empathy or sympathy.

That day the myth was shattered—that America was viewed by all the world as the” good guy.” That realization brings its own brand of Nihilism to the landscape of human affairs. There is something quixotic that informs what humans do to humans yet the sword continues to be drawn, brandished and thrust until it finds flesh. And when that brandishing is dismissed as delusion, the stakes get higher as the ego determines they must. A slight becomes a public insult and illusions become crusades. It wasn’t just buildings that were shattered that infamous day. Lots of things were shattered. Lots of humanity was lost.

This painting tells us all of that and more… without a single word. It’s a singular image that speaks to every part of the human, the obvious and the esoteric. Art sometimes occurs for the sake of itself. Good art is a conveyance, a vehicle that can transport you transcendentally to another realm and another understanding—or not. When it asks the questions, it is better than giving the answers. Exquisite art gets inside you. It reveals something of the soul. It speaks a different language—soul speak. This art is that. This art is art in the service of humanity.


People do look to poets to say for them what they don’t know how to say. The day that has come to be known as Nine Eleven (9/11) has filled history books, anthologies, coffee table tomes, photo essays and occasionally… very occasionally… a poem.

I think I know
how the spider feels
when she spins a web
from the juice
of her own body.
Today, Nine Eleven,
there is no juice,
only weary hollow bones
sucked of marrow,
thirsty tissues, a heart
that’s cracked and dry,
the only moisture
a mind that weeps.
When the heart of a country splinters,
silence screams a land,
and a triage hunts for hope
anywhere alive,
the tightest dressing
is not enough
to stem humanity’s bleed.
When a numbing mind
must caress the carnage
but dares not wander
too far into the gaping despair
for the fear of no return,
it searches for meaning,
gropes to understand
or even just find words.
It is then
people look to poets.
There are some days
the flailing, the wailing
has no voice,
nor can the poem.
Some days
the paper stares dumbstruck
and words won’t spill
or peaceably assemble.

In order to write it
the poet must inhale
allow her body
to span the essence
like mother Maat,
absorb it to her core
hold it long and deep
like her breath.
Only then to exhale,
push ethereal strands,
weave them into something,
give dimension,
form the matrix,
birth its life and being.
For that she needs moisture.
Go in search of a spider.
Watch her spin.
Listen for the wailing in the web,
see her body shudder,
know the sacrifice she makes
to spin such gossamer thread,
attach it to the invisible,
and hang by it suspended.

(C) B. Kaufmann 2002



And then of course, there was this poetic and iconic moment…


  1. gertrude said . . .

    Words may not be enough, but those you have put here still have magnificence. Gratitude to you Reverend B. for the searing beauty of them. Up here above the 49th, our hearts still break and we sob remembering that incomprehensible day, the terrible, bewildered suffering of our North American sisters and brothers, and that of all in the world who have had the Anathema visited on them before, and after, 9/11. Thank-you for bringing it all round in the end to the song of the Peace Leader, Michael ‘…the man who deals in love beyond repair, who says we can heal the world…’.

    Posted September 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Sue Springer said . . .

    Thank you, Rev. B, for such searing beauty. I still find it hard to speak of that day. I still can only stand vigil for the lost and their families, and for the wound to humanity. 9/11 was not just an American tragedy, but a global wound to the hearts and minds of all peace loving peoples. Thank you for speaking so eloquently for all of us. Love and peace, Sue.

    Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink
  3. Kim said . . .

    This picture is very haunting. I still see visions of the planes going into the building. When I saw that picture, it truly stopped me in my tracks. The emotions still run almost as deep as they did on that terrible day. With that said, for an artist to create something that completely represents every aspect of what happened that day is beyond talented. We will never be the same. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted September 15, 2011 at 1:42 am | Permalink

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