Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An Older Poem on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

November 22, 1963

I remember the very moment
as if it were branded on my soul:

It was 2:05 pm.
We were in Brother O’Connor’s 10th grade 
     religion class,
St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, 
     eager for the end of the day.

A crying voice came over the PA
saying, Please Pray for Him, Boys,
He’s Been Shot!

For 30 minutes there was stunned,
uncomprehending silence,
punctuated by confused attempts to pray;
but all our prayers were incoherent,
crazed dancing of a chicken, its head cut off.

At 2:35 Brother Matthew’s quavering voice
said, He’s Dead, Boys. Let’s Pray
For Him And For Ourselves

pray that love and light
overcome the furious violence

and darkness
in our souls.

                               Robert M. Coughlin/November 22, 1983

This poem, written 30 years ago, reflects quite accurately my experience of Friday, November 22, 1963. Of course memory is very fallible, and a few details might be wrong. I'm not 100% sure that it was St. Joe's principal. Brother Stanley Mathews who spoke on the PA that day. But I do remember being in Brother O'Connor's religion class, last period of the day. And I remember how stunned, saddened, and disoriented we all were. Notice how the last part of the poem indicts not only the murderer, but all of us--all with "the furious violence / and darkness/ in our souls." All of us.

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