“A City So Big You Gotta’ Say It Twice”: A Poem by Wajahat Ali and Ishmael Reed

A City So Big You Gotta’ Say It Twice

Wajahat Ali and Ishmael Reed

I am at the 9/11 memorial.
2 presidents and their first ladies are holding hands.
Yo-Yo Ma is playing Bach on the cello.
I look to my right, I’m standing next to a Marine.
I look to my left, a man in a FDNY shirt is crying.
I look in front of me, a man in a yarmulke is capturing the scene on his iPhone.
I look behind me, there’s a New York crowd.

I am with our NHK film crew, who are following me around.
All this footage will appear on Japanese television.
I am in New York for our play “The Domestic Crusaders.”
It’s not only the tenth anniversary of 9/11,
It’s also the tenth anniversary of this play’s birth.
Yesterday was our premiere.
We received a New York Welcome.
New York has always overdosed us with love.

Returning from Ground Zero –
I’m in a New York State of Mind.

A city so big you gotta’ say it twice.
A big town with an even bigger heart.
The city that took it on the chin for the rest of us –
And the city that never backed down.

She’s the city that wears the most visible scar of that tragic day.
Maligned by some, hated and abused by others.
Some wish that she would be sawed in half like one of Houdini’s models
And set afloat in the Atlantic.

But she rises above the Bronx cheers
And pursues a nobler course.
Because she represents America,
Because she has to.

She’s the great, steaming cooking pot of the world.
She’s the bouillabaisse of all its flavors.
This ongoing experiment named 346 years ago.
This unfinished draft still being polished
This perpetual work in progress .

New York, New York.

Her spirit is big enough and strong enough
To carry the rest of us with her –
Forward –
-As one.

11:03 am,  9/11/11


3 thoughts on ““A City So Big You Gotta’ Say It Twice”: A Poem by Wajahat Ali and Ishmael Reed

  1. we all know we’re welcome from all over the world to ny/ny-americas gateway to oppurtunity-that which is more than some can accept right at the start of the liberty trail.
    but as we shed our collective cloak of suppression, we stand tall big or small in
    the worlds mall of a chance for success where no other place in the world exists.
    the shining city……………

  2. Hey Wajahat.. I don’t know how to emphasize this enough.. Your parents have done an amazing job raising you; may Allah bless them infinitely.. and you too! What you’re doing is very noble; your real reward is with Allah in Heaven..
    I love your play; well the little that I’ve read of it anyway.. 😉 It’s not available here in Karachi, as far as I’ve looked.. And I salute your report on Islamophobia.. It’s sad to say the least… but at least there’s people like you who aren’t afraid to take a stand.
    The USA has given me a lot and I can never hate her, even if that makes me the only person in my country to love her. As proud as you ought to be for being an American, the USA is equally lucky to have you as a citizen..
    And sharing the grief of 9/11, I pray for a transformation of space, where Americans can hold raw, unbridled pain with strength, with faith, with compassionate loving kindness. And may our prayers for this peace be in our thoughts, in our deeds, our relationships, art, healing, politics, and in our actions. Amen.
    Thank you for all that you’ve done for our community. And if you ever need any help in any of your endeavours, just say the word. =)

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