This Heat – “Cenotaph”

Cliches For A Reason: Not Knowing What Else To Do, Singers Sing Songs About 9/11 is an article @ the Village Voice by Douglas Wolk about sifting through a mountain of tapes culled from a call by the Voice for “love songs” about NYC. The results – as you can probably imagine – are all over the map, from cod-professionalism to the most charming of art brut. But also – as you can probably imagine – 99% of them seem to be about the 9/11 attacks, even in passing. I have no idea who made the final cut, but I’ll be looking forward to the compilation CD (it’s out in March) with the nervous twitch of a schoolkid about to deliver an assembly speech.

I had been avoiding talking about 9/11 until now. The words just wouldn’t come, and who wants to use their own fear and inability as fodder for their work? The words, in a sense, had been filled already. And those words go:

“History/History/Repeats itself/History repeats itself/Remembrance Sunday/A war to end all war/And the war that came after that/To keep freedoms flag flying/Unless/We forget/The glorious dead/Poppy day/Remember/Poppies are red/And the fields are full of poppies/And when the lights go back on/All over the world/And when the boys come home/All over the world/Rain and snow will be all that fall/From out of the sky/A kiss won’t mean goodbye/When Johnny comes marching home.”

Now there’s a knee-jerk reaction – because these are dour post-punks, because its parent album is a song-cycle about nuclear war – to take the above as sarcasm, as typical punk rock anti-patriotism. I don’t think so. It’s uneasy and uncertain, yes. But the sentiments are real; in a sense, how can they be argued? That unease, uncertainty…it’s how I live at least once every day now, tethered to a sense of community I had never felt before, itself only born out of the face of presupposed imminent destruction. It perfectly captures the mood for me of living in a country where the Record of Historical Buildings still uses the phrase “Indian Fighter” along with “Revolutionary War Hero” on the sign marking the birth home of Gen. Anthony Wayne (which sits across from a Taco Bell, viewed at a stoplight last night listening to, yes, this very song.) But yes, people are using other people for bombs (to quote the people’s poet), something even the strongest of individuals can’t defend themselves against.

Not knowing what else to do, writer hits the post & publish button on a weblog.