This research analyzes the poem "I Saw You Walking" by Deborah Garrison, a powerful tribute to the deceased victims and the survivors of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001…
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The researcher defines the most prominent poetic device and the best at contributing to the meaning of Garrison’s poem is imagery. September 11 was an event that will forever be stored away in the memory banks of those who witnessed that dark day, whether as a bystander, a concerned citizen shocked and shaken by the images on the television as the tragedy continued to unfold, or a victim. Garrison’s imagery takes us back to that day, bringing into sharp focus of the mind’s eye the victims with their “shoes of white ash” and their “hair powdered white like your feet, but underneath not yet gray”. Though Garrison is describing one person, a man in a train station, this individual could have been any of the victims or bystanders within the vicinity of the attack, their hair and clothes dusted with the white powder from the fallen towers. Garrison also uses sharp imagery in describing the physical state of the man. “One shirt arm’s sheared clean from the shoulder, the whole bare limb wet with muscle and shining dimly pink” and his “dusted back, half shirted” shows the devastation that this survivor experienced in minute detail. Garrison’s closing lines of the poem read, “I should have dropped to my knees to thank God you were alive, o my God, in whom I don’t believe” suggests her disbelief that, at seeing the horrid, mangled condition of this man, he had been lucky enough to survive. Since this poem is based on an event that really happened, seeing Garrison’s perception of some of the trauma experienced by the victims make the event that much surreal, as well as that much more real. This victim, whether he is fictional or real, is no less part of the reality of that day. The imagery also allows us to see that the theme of Garrison’s haunting poem is that of gratitude for life. The most profound word choice is when she describes the age of the man as “. . . forty-seven? forty-eight? The age of someone’s father” (25-26), which suddenly gives this anonymous man a potential background story. If this indeed was someone’s father, and if he were a parent then his children would be fairly young, it was by grace that he survived the attack and was able to go home to his family. In the aforementioned lines 29-30, where Garrison expresses her thankfulness to a God “in whom I don’t believe,” her gratitude is deep that such a man, a parent, would be spared his life. The miracle of this man’s survival is so astounding to Garrison that she finds herself thanking a divine being that she does not believe exists, which truly shows the depth of her appreciation. These lines, coupled with the imagery of the man’s physical state, reveals that this man has much to be thankful. The poetic device of symbolism is also present throughout the poem. The man himself, in his damaged state, is symbolic of the surreality of the attacks. The tragedy of September 11 is one that cannot always be easy to put into words, to describe the sheer terror of those harrowing hours. Garrison, while of course using words, lets the disposition of the man speak for how horrifying the situation had been. “
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