A shell of protection, this choice I’ve made
To hide away indefinitely until
This fragile, silken wall peels
Off, revealing new life.
The barrier is temporary and thin—
Easily broken when the time is right.

But now I must collect myself
Be still awhile
Be safe.
Take pains with my words, listen more,
Defy the urgency of unnecessary things.
Spinning this private insulation about me
Preserves my heart and soul
In these jostling, jarring times.

But new life will come as I emerge
From this case of gray to see the world again.
Gold that remains
when death and destruction are burned away.
New life will come on quiet, fragile wings.

                                I will fly, I will land,
I will see the world in a new way.
I will remember.

Jody Lee Collins c. 2012
This poem is a response to a prompt over at dVerse Poets Open Link Night where we were encouraged to: "describe the psychological state you were in when you wrote your poem, the social events underlying it, or the thoughts that were alive in your mind and heart when the words formed themselves into a poem."  

In September of 2001 my daughter and I were going to celebrate her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City to meet Ruth Reichl, then Editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. We'd spent 5 glorious days in and around Brooklyn and on September 10th in the evening, met my nephew for drinks at the Windows on the World restaurant in Manhattan.  A tremendous summer thunderstorm came through that night, lightning strikes, rain in buckets, we were soaked but dried out and took the subway home (I wrote about the kindness of the people we met that night here.) 

The next morning was the day of our appointment.  I remember, 'see you at 11 on the 11th' , from Ruth's assistant.  It was a crystal clear, blue sky day. And then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.

When we returned home to Washington, I was in shock for about 6 weeks, although I didn't know it at the time.
I couldn't talk on the phone and cook dinner at the same time.
I had to be still whenever possible.
Simultaneous input verbally and visually was overwhelming.
I walked through the days wrapped in cotton.
This is what I wrote.


  1. holy....this chilled me...i was in the air that day and emergency put down in atlanta...i can not imagine actually being there in NYC and it not being your home and so much emotion around this day...nicely done...

    1. Thank you Brian. The words poured out, especially the chrysalis metaphor...lots of stories surrounding that day.
      Thanks for the kind response.

  2. Awesome write, Jody Lee! It seems we each have that "where we were" story, and you have written your account wonderfully. I was, of course, drawn to the fact that you went into automatic response mode, which you mention in the poem and the paragraph; and that response was to be still; to slow down and let yourself absorb the shock and grief--and other things, too, I imagine, then go on. I often subscribe to this method, as well as recommend it to others.

    1. Charles--I think the 'automatic response mode' was God's way of protecting me, which I think is the reason for shock, if that makes sense.
      It was a life-changing time, that is for sure.

      thank you for your response.

  3. I have a similar experience with the Trade Center, though not nearly as close to the date ofvtheir fall as you. I remember the numbness which you describe after they fell. Simply shocking and the metaphor of the cocoon is very just for that experience. You've shown us how the poem fit into your life and situated it in your life. It is so terrible how life brings chance along with it and chooses some for tragedy, others for transformation, others for simply continuing as before. I think the internal response to events is so individual and personal, determined by so many unknown variables. Your poetic response shows the possibility of transformation, which I believe is true of the most heightened awareness.

    1. Charles--yes, I remember looking up at the sky while pieces of burnt paper fell to the ground around me (we were a mile and a half away) and thinking, "I will never be the same again."
      Truly, out of the ashes, I know new life came for many people. There are so many miraculous God-only stories that I've heard and continue to hear about that day.

      Thank you for your read and thoughtful response.

  4. "Easily broken when the time is right." That says a lot to me.

    Great new place, Jody. And powerful words, as usual. :-)