Poems Without Borders

New York

Poems Without Borders
Aloha Odes
Poets Without Borders
New York
About the Poet
About the Photographer

New York City Skyline
New York City skyline
Before 9/11

* * * * * * *

My glazed eyes gather
the silence in this darkened room,
a refuge from the glitzy world
that cannot see the grime 

beneath the glitter.  Yet
no refuge have I from a self
shaped by worldly cares.
My hyphenated-self

separates me from truth.

The world is a foundling in need
of identity.  

I am
a lost soul searching

for truth and beauty.

 Nov. 1972

* * *

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

The telephone rang.  I rolled out of bed

and zigzaged my way to the nearest telephone

about five feet away.  Hello, I said.

Do you have the TV on?  The voice on the other end

wanted to know.  No, I matter-of-factly replied.

Turn it on!  The caller urged.  OK, I said, 

my voice still thick with sleep.

I walked to the nearest television -- in the family room

across the hallway about 12 feet away.

I turned the TV on and Dan Rather was on Channel 9

and Tom Brokaw on Channel 4.  

 My brain was still in sleep mode,

and having heard about an earthquake the day before,

I went back to the telephone and asked,

Is this about the earthquake?

No, said the voice on the other end.

A plane just hit the Pentagon!  he informed me.

By the way, who am I speaking with? I wanted to know.

It’s Fred!  He said.

Fred and his wife Diane are dear friends;

I shook my husband Karl out of bed and

I went back to the television room. 

I stayed with CBS and Rather and I saw

a tall building engulfed in fire and figures

flying out of windows from high altitudes.

Suddenly a plane hit the building behind

the burning building.


The clock on the wall clicked 5:55.

Thus began September 11, 2001

at one home in Po’ipu, Kaua’i, Hawai’i,

some 5,000 miles away from the scene of infamy.

After watching half hour of unthinkable terror 

I called Fred to thank him for thinking of us.

I went back to the television,

this time in the living room

where Karl and I, together and separately,

watched the attack on America,

hour after hour, day and night

during the painful week that followed.

The sadness that 9/11 brought 

is lodged deep in my heart,

And my eyes still fill up with tears

when images from that day

replay themselves in my thoughts.

Karl and I lived on Governors Island

across the southern tip of Manhattan

for 4-1/2 years when Karl was serving

in the United States Coast Guard.

We watched at close range the building of the Twin Towers

which unconscionable acts of terrorism

have demolished, marring beyond words and belief

New York City’s distinctive landscape. 

      Catherine Lo  2001

* * *


The attack on America on September 11, 2001,

immediately brought to mind September 11, 1992, 

when Hurricane ‘Iniki devastated Kaua'i. 

Another 9-1-1, I thought, and I cried!

This is a sad and painful time 

for America in a far-reaching scale. 

And Hawai’i will suffer economically 

from the aftermath of the attacks on New York City. 

Americans on Kaua’i are farthest from ground zero, 

but our sadness and pain are deep and real.  

We lived on Governors Island, 

across the southern tip of Manhattan 

several years ago -- from 1968-1973.  

Battery Park, where the Twin Towers stood, 

was only a five-minute-ferry-ride away.  

During our 4-1/2 years in New York, 

we were at Battery Park often to catch 

the ferry to Staten Island, or the bus

or the subway to mid-town or uptown Manhattan, 

or as we passed on our way to Wall Street or Chinatown.  

The Twin Towers were not open to visitors 

when we left New York on April 1, 1973, 

but we saw them being built, 

and they were near completion when we left.  

Our sadness and pain are real, indeed.  

And we are moved to tears as we see the devastation 

on television ... as we watch volunteers digging 

into piles of rubble looking for survivors ... 

as we see people on the streets of New York 

looking for loved ones. 


But as Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald 

says with conviction and courage,

"We'll go forward from this moment."  

With the grace and mercy of God.

Catherine Lo  9.16.01

* * *


Last night
I sat at my desk past midnight
until my hand ached
from racing with my busy heart

The melancholy from September 11
prevails like a cold winter wind
freezing layers of questions
quarried in my busy heart

the fire at Ground Zero continues to burn
and October has brought only added doubt
more grief and deeper sorrow as America
fights in Afghanistan and America
battles a heinous enemy that continues
a biological war on American soil

Season our soul with courage and strength
and remind us again and again to believe
that good will triumph over evil


Photographs ... and more photographs ...
from years and years ago ...
photographs I haven't seen in decades ...
Why do they surface today?

Here I stand on the boardwalk
at Rockaway Beach near Rockaway Park
with the vast Atlantic Ocean behind me.

As a seventeen-year-old, newly arrived from Hawaii,
and on my way to Greenville, Pennsylvania,
to start my freshman year at Thiel College,
I was starting an exciting chapter in my young life
in this dazzling city of New York.

When I posed at the observatory
of the Empire State Building ...
with Uncle John, Dad's brother ...
before starting a summer job
as a chambermaid at the Del Mar Hotel,
owned and operated by a dear friend
of Uncle John ... one George Topper ...
little did I know that the telescope
that brought the city closer to sight
was a symbol of sorts.

It was the 4th of July when I boarded the plane
at Lihue on the island of Kauai, Hawaii,
off to a distant land I never dreamed of.
An Independence Day with double meaning
for a teenager in search of education.

These photographs bring back memories
of years filled with the excitement
and the expectations of youth.
And memory magnifies those magical moments ...

It was a time when I had no knowledge that Betty,
who supervised my work, and Louie,
the hotel custodian whose face was always red
from drinking too much ... as I learned later in life ...
were Germans making their home
in a new land through the good graces
of a Jewish hotelier who employed them
during the summer months
when the wealthy vacationed at Rockaway.

Today ... I wonder where Betty and Louie,
with their thick German accent, spent their winters.
And I wonder when they left their homeland.

I know that Uncle John and Mr. Topper
wintered in Florida.
Del Mar Hotel closed after Labor Day
and opened again to welcome annual guests
when the summer sun warmed the beach
at Rockaway just right for swimming.


John F. Kennedy Ferry with new paint job.
Photo: Phillip Chan | 10.10.06

Men with graying temples
attired in gray or blue suits and pastel shirts
sit on hard benches
with bulging black briefcases.
They are deep in thought, cross-legged,
puzzling over crosswords.

Girls with printed micro-minis under dark maxi coats
munch on slices of pepperoni pizza
their finger sticky and smelling
tomato sauce and Mozzarella.

Long-haired boys and young men
in striped bell-bottom pants
lean against available walls
their eye balls dancing
with mini skits that pass.

Matrons in bright fineries
with their hair piled up in pompodours
cover their heads with red nets
to keep away the naughty wind.

In the winter men wearing furry black Cossack hats
warm their throats with black coffee
in tan paper cups.

They all ride the yellow ferry
that ply between Manhattan and Staten Island.
It may be the AMERICAN LEGION,

New Yorkers in many colors
hurry to get on and off the yellow boat,
At the stern or at the bow,
At port or at starboard,
The colors blend in harmony,
like the colors of the rainbow,
and they are beautiful.

5.13.69 | 3.9.07

* * * * * * *

Your mate is gone 
And you sit in the corner 
Kissing the glass. 
Kiss on . . . 
If kissing eases the pain. 

I question not your lamenting kiss, 
But swim again among the tall grass, 
And gather again the moss on the rocks, 
And pick again on the water sprite. 
See the bright surrounding light, 
The white stones and the evergreens. 

kissing gourami: freshwater fish, mostly brightly 
colored, often kept in aquariums in pairs and 
known to kiss when meeting

Published in "Bamboo Ridge" (The Hawaii Writers' Quarterly) -- No. 21, Fall 1983.
* * * * * * * 


New York City
we share your grief
We share your sorrow and suffering
America mourns with you

Tears cleanse anger and pain
Tears heal an aching heart
New York City

and embrace
one last time
move on
to bind your broken spirit

The cloud over you will clear
and you will see the blue sky again
The rubble will be cleared away
and all will be fresh again

Fill the void with love
New York City
Embrace today and tomorrow
and bind your broken spirit


The Lady in holiday white,
her body beribboned in red and blue,
gracefully turns around to face
The Narrows
and eases herself through
where the colors of morning paint
Buttermilk Channel.

In her bosom one hundred men
and fifty more take comfort
from the early morning chill.

She leaves behind the winter sun
too cold to warm the naked trees
trembling in the wind
for Guantamo, St. Croix, San Juan.

Published in SITREP THREE (A publication of the Third Coast Guard District, Governors Island, N.Y.) February 1973.

Note: "The Lady in holiday white" is the USCG Cutter Morgenthau (WHEC-722), which was commissioned on March 10, 1969. The 378-foot cutter, homeported on Governors Island, was active in the Vietman War until 1971 when it returned to Governors Island. The poet's husband served on the Morgenthau after the cutter returned from Vietnam.

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Spiral, Horizontal Line Spinning

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