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Originally published Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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American Life in Poetry

Stuart Kestenbaum's "Prayer for the Dead

Stuart Kestenbaum, the author of this week's poem, lost his brother Howard in the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center...

Stuart Kestenbaum, the author of this week's poem, lost his brother Howard in the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We thought it appropriate to commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, by sharing this poem. The poet is the director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, Maine.

TED KOOSER, U.S. Poet Laureate

The light snow started late last night and continued

all night long while I slept and could hear it occasionally

enter my sleep, where I dreamed my brother

was alive again and possessing the beauty of youth, aware

that he would be leaving again shortly and that is the lesson

of the snow falling and of the seeds of death that are in everything

that is born: we are here for a moment

of a story that is longer than all of us and few of us

remember, the wind is blowing out of someplace


we don't know, and each moment contains rhythms

within rhythms, and if you discover some old piece

of your own writing, or an old photograph,

you may not remember that it was you and even if it was once you,

it's not you now, not this moment that the synapses fire

and your hands move to cover your face in a gesture

of grief and remembrance.

Stuart Kestenbaum

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2007 by Stuart Kestenbaum. Reprinted from "Prayers & Run-on Sentences" (Deerbook Editions, 2007) by permission of Stuart Kestenbaum. Introduction copyright 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. "American Life in Poetry" appears Tuesdays in Northwest Life.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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