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“That Tuesday”


This poem is a re-working of a villanelle I wrote years ago about the September 11, 2001 attacks. The form and sound of these syllabic, 14-line stanzas were influenced by Seamus Heaney’s poem “Casualty.” This version benefits from the feedback of my two local first readers JG and JH. I fact-checked the details by reading Wikipedia, by consulting with my husband, and by emailing an early draft to the teacher Mrs. White; however, the “doing sums” is a plausible fiction. This poem is one of many in a book I’m compiling as a surprise gift for my daughter.



You were doing sums
With pencil and paper
In Mrs. White’s classroom
And I was miles away
At the State Street bank
Making my deposits.
Before I could get
To the teller’s counter
The lobby’s TV
Switched to a station
That broke the story:
Burning cockpits,
Flaming engines,
Two New York towers.
raising and dropping the flag
You were in second grade
That cloudless Tuesday
When back home I made
Your father check the news.
I dialed your school
But couldn’t get through.
All across the nation
Thousands did the same —
By cell phone or land line
Countless calls were placed
To children, husbands, wives.
Then, terrors again:
The south building falls;
A crash in Arlington.
fast and nimble-footed
You were eight years old
And I was guessing
As best I could
How long it would take me
To drive to your school
Through slow traffic lights
Down Woodlawn streets
To that left-hand turn
By the parking lot.
I was listening
To the car radio
Fearing I wouldn’t reach you
Before roads closed
Or one more missile flew.
for a mother’s end game:
You had finished your sums
When I rushed up stairs
To the front office
And saw three women —
Teachers — speaking in hushed
Voices; though I could swear
I heard “Pentagon”
And pictured that word
For five sides and angles,
For agencies of war.
No one at Reception
Asked for my ID.
They knew my face
And my daughter’s name.
They knew my face.
They knew your name.
That morning I was first
To claim a boy or girl.
One teacher walked straight
To the lower school
And right up to your chair,
Led you out of the room.
In your plaid uniform —
Blue and green squares
With a thin line of red —
You left second grade
In my arms. My two arms.
My one child. That Tuesday.
by Therese L. Broderick

About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

One response »

  1. Hi Therese,

    This is very evocative even though it’s impossible for many to imagine what it must have been like in the US. But there is much I don’t know about your location (other than Albany) and that of your daughter’s school that would make your actions imperative. You must pardon my ignorance.


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