After: An All American, Post 9-11 Love Poem

by Sarah McKinstry-Brown


After he got on one knee, and she said, I do. After


they watched the televised bombs

disappear the city. After everyone fell


asleep. After shock and awe, him and her


making love while tanks rolled through that desert city's

streets, erasing memory. After forgetting their sorrow,


and bringing the babies into the gaping

blue. After nursing and swaddling


while department store massacres unfolded,

perfume counters and bullet casings


on the brink of Christmas. Red, red, blue

red, blue. After sirens. After boys with black hole eyes


emptying their grief into automatic weapons. After

playing house, buying curtains, making lists, pretending to be perennial


and not just another boom. After the cold, hard ground,

the evergreens mute and blazing. After


the mothers and fathers on the other end of the

headlines, the news of children huddled in closets.


After eyes hollow, after no ground could ever be

hallowed. After she heard the news and called him,


both of them with nothing to give the other

except a silence to weep against. After winter


after winter, after winter, after winter,

it's a wonder it didn't happen sooner:


The two of them screaming at each other

in the restaurant parking lot,

the bar, the idling car,


the neon blue and red Open sign coloring their faces with bruises,

blinking, open open open.


After he, after he gets on one knee,

and she says, I do. I do. After


they watch the televised

bombs, the nothing


blooming. After everyone falls

asleep. After shock and awe, him and her


making love while tanks roll through another city, erasing memory,


Oh, America, who are you

to tell them that love is anything


but holding on.