November 22, 2009

 

 

 

          To my nine-year-old

          way of thinking,

          it was impossible.

 

          “They’ve shot the President!”

 

          The teacher next door

          stuck her head in

          to announce.

 

          Who are they?

 

          Outside, a brilliant

          fall sky: utterly
          blue, cloudless.

 

          A boy’s hero
          can't die on such

          a day, can he?

          Yet there it

          was: the scene

          with Cronkite

          removing his spectacles,

          choking up:

 

          “President Kennedy

          died in Dallas today

          at…”

 

          The world wobbled

          on its axis.

          A year before

          in October

          they’d issued us kids

          military dogtags,

          not stating why.

          We knew.

 

          What about those

          Civil Defense drills?

          Herded to the boiler room,

          we huddled under

          antique desks,

          knees tucked

          to our chins,

          poised, in Arch Trimble’s

          wisecracking phrase,

          “to kiss our ass good-by.”

 

          Unable to grasp the enormity

          forty odd years later,

          I sit on a hard pew

          in Mass

          on the final Sunday

          of ordinary time,

          transported to that

          autumn afternoon

          when terror gripped

          the throat of a body

          politic accustomed

          to scanning the horizon

          for signs of a mushroom

          cloud, then pinch myself

          as proof of having lived

          so long

          in mind-numbingly

          unpredictable times.

 

 

 

 

                                                      Edward Francisco