Scene from a Diner in MISSISSIPPI

By Alyssa Shanderson

Alyssa is the Co-Chief Editor of Poetry and Contributors Coordinator at Arch. She is a Junior at the University pursuing a double major in Political Science and English with the hopes of working as a Human Rights Lawyer. She prefers her puns intended and poetry dark.


This poem is inspired by “Untitled” a photograph by Joanna Tam

 in the Race, Love, and Labor exhibition in the University Art Museum.

8:45 AM

An interruption in broadcast,

Breaking News, an explosion, an accident

Dozens of eyes fixated on a small screen above the counter, plates are going cold

Why was the plane that low, what a tragic, accident

Shocked and stunned, the truckers are no longer en route to their destinations

Together we feel a collective grief, unable to move we try to understand and then

9:03 AM

Another metal bullet pierces steel beams

And now we know that this is no accident

It is a declaration of war that shakes the foundation

Of our Nationalistic beliefs, the waitress lets a small scream

Slip out and into our silence making us jump in unison,

It could be us next. The world is burning.

Our disbelief grows. How did this happen, somebody help them

Periodic cracks can be heard, they cannot breathe so they jump

Every time it’s like a dagger in our own lungs

Are we safe here 1000 miles removed from a skyline forever altered?

The distance feels so much smaller and the fear, that much greater

Every minute it becomes clearer that help cannot reach the highest points

Every minute feels like an hour, and then

9:59 AM

Untouched meals are cold as ice, pancake stacks wilting

Crashing down, floor by floor the building comes down

Clouds of debris made from office memos and conference rooms

And blood funnel through cross streets

Like tile fillings in a bathroom, pipelines playing Pac-man

With thousands running toward air that

Is clean and doesn’t smell like jet fuel.

Realistically the cloud couldn’t reach us but we want to suffocate with this paralyzed city, to

make our empathy reality so they knew they need not suffer alone

They aren’t alone, but now they are isolated

The television tells us that the Pentagon was crushed

 And another plane in a field was headed for the White House and then

The final blow, the last of the Center

Another pipeline, more devastation, more lives lost

We are crying now, we are scared now

Nothing can be the same now

I feel my hand instinctively pull above my chest

Just above my heart, I think in this moment, back to the days of my youth

When I felt safe, when I couldn’t begin to imagine a beautiful day in early September

That would change my America

Almost automatically I think

One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice