Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4th and Kent State: I Won't (Can't) Forget You

A poem put on my blog last year:

Close to My Heart

[Kent State University
May 4, 1970. 12:24 PM]

Forty-three years ago today,
National Guardsman’s bullet,
shot 293 miles from my college dorm,
blew through my chest, landing at my heart

where it remains today. The Doc said,
“It’s too dangerous to remove. You’ll have to live
with the chronic ache.”

That day, while my cousin Maggie ran through a fog
of teargas to the Theatre Building, and high school friends
watched from the corners of trees and buildings,
Guardsmen, not much older than me, bayonets fixed--

and then, in the chaos, sixty-seven shots ring out 
on Blanket Hill.

Four dead, nine others wounded, untold traumatized,
Guardsmen and students alike. I, 
with pericardium,
peri-anima trauma,

called up Mom and Dad, back in Euclid,

Crying and yelling at them, total innocents,
for being . . . what? . . . adults, easy targets
for my pain.

Hope they forgave their hurting son,
hope the pain around the hearts of Ohioans,
Kent Staters, Americans,

hope the pain

Robert M. Coughlin / May 4, 2013

[A poem from 4 years ago, the 40th Anniversary]:

Old Math: The Calculus of May 4, 1970

Neil Young’s song still dances around my brain
Forty years after that fateful Monday, May 4th, 1970:

“Four dead in O-hi-o. Four dead in O-hi-o.”

The math is both hard and simple:

4th day of the fifth month of the 1970th year of the Lord.
77 Guardsmen with fixed bayonets advance toward the crowd.
13-second fusillade;
67 shots fired, many into the ground or into the air;
4 dead in Ohio: Jeffrey Miller. Allison Krause. Sandy Scheuer. Bill Schroeder.
Their ages: 20, 19, 20, and 19.

9 wounded in O-hi-o: John Lewis, Thomas Grace, John Cleary,
Alan Canfora, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell, Robert Stamps.
Dean Kahler permanently paralyzed.
Donald MacKenzie wounded from a distance of 750 feet.

Branded into memory, the image of Mary Ann Vecchio,
Horror on her face, arms extended over the lifeless body of Jeffrey Miller,
Shot through the mouth:
John Filo’s Pulitzer winning photo
Developed inside every young American’s brain.

58,000 Americans dead in the Vietnam War;
10 times that many wounded; how many with deep psychic injury?
Uncountable millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.
A couple hundred million Americans torn up in anguish,
Conflicted, confused—a confusion that can never be resolved.

The old chant continues:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own,
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.”

(Robert M. Coughlin, Kirtland, Ohio. May 4, 2010)

Neil Young singing "Ohio."

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