John F. Kennedy
Slain by a gunman named
Lee Harvey Oswald. An American.
A strange fellow, hell bent on committing the ultimate crime.
Political disagreement with the president?
Maybe. There were rumors.
I hate violence, disruptions and death.
When the media
Said President Kennedy had been shot in my
Part of the country: Texas
I felt ashamed that it occurred in Dallas.
The date was November 22, 1963.
I remember thinking: Violence is so intentional.
So evil. So distracting. So aimless.
Death should be natural.
Not forced by a killer’s bullet.
I was in downtown Austin
The day it happened:
I was waiting to catch a bus,
Flirted with by passing men.
Hearing about death was not on
The day was too sunny and
Pretty to ruin with that kind of news:
The fatality of a president.
I heard a man or woman
Say Kennedy had been shot.
His condition was uncertain. Everything was crazy.
The news was traveling at record speed.
I was surprised for some reason.
I don’t think I believed it.
I was not close to a radio
Or TV. I had to wait
Until I got home.
It was a long bus ride.
A very long ride.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
They said the shots rang out,
Annihilating a life
That had a right to be lived in full.
My mother greeted me at the door
With the tragic news.
I didn’t want to cry.
Not for this man,
The president of the United States.
He was a stranger to me.
Nonetheless I had voted for hm.
The bothersome knot settling
Deep in my throat.
Was preparing to strangle me.
The need to cry can be stifling.
My head and chest were heavy,
Each breathing and beating to its own rhythm.
I thought each would
Burst under the pulsating pressure:
Beat. Throb. Beat. Throb. Beat. Throb.
Things got better after letting
Go the tears.
Private tears I had saved and packaged
For a different occasion.
I teetered between sniffling
And crying out loud when Kennedy’s
Funeral was televised.
Watching it with the
Rest of rest of the world
Was harder than when the
Assassination was first announced by
A tearful media.
That was the first and last time
I cried for a white man.
The assassinator of President
John F. Kennedy was gunned down
By a hat wearing
Little man named
A night club owner in Dallas.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Was in police custody
When the single shot was fired.
Police and detectives stood still as cement,
Their mouths and eyes
Propped open in total shock
As a “distraught” Ruby delivered
A fatal bullet to Oswald’s belly.
The hefty little shooter surrendered without incident.
Ruby was able to get close to
The captured suspect because
He was a familiar face
At the Dallas Police Department.
Familiarity bred justice outside the courtroom
That bright sunny day.
It’s true the brain is a filing cabinet.
This retrieved file helped me write this poem.
It helped me remember
That November day in history,
When sunshine, bullets and tragedy
Controlled the world’s attention.
The retrieved file
Helped me recall that
It was the first and last time
My mother held me while I cried.
I was a grown woman with daughters of my own.