Dates: Figure This

Today is “el dieciocho”, the National Day of Chile where I lived for a year and a half from January, 1971 to July, 1972. On 11th. September, 1973, the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende, was killed in Pinochet’s military coup, so “9/11” has a doubly ominous significance for many Chileans. Last Monday was the 16th. anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity and I wrote the following poem a day or so before to mark the occasion.

Dates: Figure This

2 –  4 –  6 –  8 – … – … – … here’s a thought to contemplate:

next in this arithmetic series, what’s the date?

For 1 – 3 – 5 – 7 -… – … – … here’s my answer: Nine Eleven


It’s Tuesday, early afternoon, about 2-ish GMT.

We’re in the office, grafting hard or just passing time, maybe.

On Graham’s desk, he has a screen which all day’s illuminated

and brings hot press the latest news, so he’s constantly updated.


And then he calls me over. Something odd has happened in the States

There’s been a plane crash – “Strangest thing!” – the commentator insinuates.

“It’s flown into the north tower of the World Trade Centre building”.

We take this with a pinch of salt. He’s just the lily gilding.


It must be small, a private jet, and we assume the guy’s insane.

We’re casually dismissive until it happens once again..

Now we really pay attention. What the hell is going on?

Then we can’t believe our senses when we see the south tower’s gone.


A real life drama is unfolding, History’s happening as we gaze.

The whole world is in awe and shock. The whole world’s in a daze.

As we watch, the second tower crumbles like sand castles on the beach

and suffocating clouds of debris come rolling from the breach.


Rubber-necking’s over, spectators scatter, fearing for their lives.

Inside last words are shouted into phones by mothers, husbands, wives.

Some 3000 workers perished and three fifty firemen too.

and all the people on 4 planes, passengers, terrorists and crew.


So is this where it all went pear-shaped, where Apocalypse drew near,

where America and Britain opened Pandora’s box of fear?

Bush and Blair together went Desert Storming through Iraq.

It’s been a downward spiral since and the clock can’t be turned back.


Obama’s been and gone since then and with him common sense.

Trump’s in charge, a dreadful thought. There’s no sitting on the fence.

Bin Laden’s dead and Saddam too, Now Kim Jong-un is raving,

provoking with his missile tests. For an earlier time we’re craving.


So fingers crossed and holding breath, at the slightest straw we clutch.

We yearn to live to tell the tale and say, “Thank you very much”.

The clock approaches midnight when all Life on Earth’s extinct

We so stupidly played chicken! Which of us was it first blinked?



  1. mph26 · September 18, 2017

    I enjoyed this poem when you read it in New Mills last Wednesday, and it’s even more pleasing to be able to take my time reading it for myself!


  2. johnmcgarrity · September 19, 2017

    Phil, I share your concern if not your virtuosity. Are you behind the Lukaku chant? John

    Um Mon, 18 Sep 2017 17:05:06 +0000


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