9/11 Steel


This exhibit in the Imperial War Museum North looks like an abstract sculpture. But closer inspection reveals that it’s a fragment from the Twin Towers. The columns, thought to be from the North Tower, formed part of a window section from an external wall.

The pet, Simon Armitage’s response to the exhibit articulate how I felt

‘To stand in front of that mangled and buckled section of steel is to feel bewildered and dumfounded. Pointlessness and poignancy seem to reside within that exhibit. I felt ashamed, angry, overwhelmed by the historical weight, and very small in its shadow. I felt wordless.’

His poem , The Convergence of Twain, is displayed beside the twisted metal

The Convergence of the Twain


Here is an architecture of air.
Where dust has cleared,
nothing stands but free sky, unlimited and sheer.


Smoke’s dark bruise
has paled, soothed
by wind, dabbed at and eased by rain, exposing the wound.


Over the spoil of junk,
rescuers prod and pick,
shout into tangled holes. What answers back is aftershock.


All land lines are down.
Reports of mobile phones
are false. One half-excoriated Apple Mac still quotes the Dow Jones.


Shop windows are papered
with faces of the disappeared.
As if they might walk from the ruins – chosen, spared.


With hindsight now we track
the vapour-trail of each flight-path
arcing through blue morning, like a curved thought.


And in retrospect plot
the weird prospect
of a passenger plane beading an office-block.


But long before that dawn,
with those towers drawing
in worth and name to their full height, an opposite was forming,


a force
still years and miles off,
yet moving headlong forwards, locked on a collision course.


Then time and space
contracted, so whatever distance
held those worlds apart thinned to an instant.


During which, cameras framed
moments of grace
before the furious contact wherein earth and heaven fused.

Armitage’s poem is inspired by, and mimics, one with the same title by Thomas Hardy, written in response to another disaster which gripped the world – the sinking of the Titanic.

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