In the latest edition of "Village Voice," Boston Public Radio's recurring conversation about poetry, poet Richard Blanco read poems reflecting on the tragedy of Sept. 11 in honor of the upcoming anniversary.

Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. His new book, "How To Love A Country," deals with sociopolitical issues that shadow America.

How To Write A Poem After September 11th, by Nikki Moustaki

You can use the word tragic if you end it with a k.

The rules have changed. The word building may precede

The word fall, but only in the context of the buildings falling

Before the fall, the season we didn't have in Manhattan

Because the weather refused, the air refused . . .

Don't say the air smelled like smoldering desks and drywall,

Ground gypsum, and something terribly organic,

Don't make a metaphor about the smell, because it wasn't

A smell at all, but the air washed with working souls,

Piling bricks, one by one, spreading mortar.

Don't compare the planes to birds. Please.

Don't call the windows eyes. We know they saw it coming.

We know they didn't blink. Don't say they were sentinels.

Say: we hated them then we loved them then they were gone.

Say: we miss them. Say: there's a gape. Then, say something

About love. It's always good in a poem to mention love.

Say: If a man walks down stairs, somewhere

Another man is walking up. Say: He sits at his desk

And the other stands. He answers the phone and the other

Ends a call with a kiss. So, on a rainy dusk in some other

City of Commerce and Art, a mayor cuts a ribbon

With giant silver scissors. Are you writing this down?

Make the executives parade through the concourse,

Up the elevators, to the top, where the restaurant,

Open now for the first time, sets out a dinner buffet.

Press hard. Remember you're writing with ashes.

Say: the phone didn't work. Say: the bakery was out of cake,

The dogs in the pound howled. Say: the world hadn't

Asked your permission to change. But you were asleep.

If only you had written more poems. If only you had written

More poems about love, about peace, about how abstractions

Become important outside the poem, outside. Then, then,

You could have squinted into the sky on September 11th

And said: thank you, thank you, nothing was broken today.

Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local l00, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye, a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo, the harbor of pirates centuries ago. Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea. Alabanza. Praise the cook’s yellow Pirates cap worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua, for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes. Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza. Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up, like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium. Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations: Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana, Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh. Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning, where the gas burned blue on every stove and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers, hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans. Alabanza. Praise the busboy’s music, the chime-chime of his dishes and silverware in the tub. Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher who worked that morning because another dishwasher could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs. Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza. After the thunder wilder than thunder, after the shudder deep in the glass of the great windows, after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs, after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen, for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in Fajardo, like a cook’s soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us about the bristles of God’s beard because God has no face, soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations across the night sky of this city and cities to come. Alabanza I say, even if God has no face. Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan and Kabul two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other, mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue: Teach me to dance. We have no music here. And the other said with a Spanish tongue: I will teach you. Music is all we have.

Photograph from September 11
BY Wislawa Szymborska translated by Clare Cavanagh

They jumped from the burning floors— one, two, a few more, higher, lower. The photograph halted them in life, and now keeps them above the earth toward the earth. Each is still complete, Village Voice Poems for 09-09-2019-Poems for 9-11 with a particular face and blood well hidden. There’s enough time for hair to come loose, for keys and coins to fall from pockets. They’re still within the air’s reach, within the compass of places that have just now opened. I can do only two things for them— describe this flight and not add a last line.