Thursday, May 5, 2016
A Poem in Memory of the Kent State Tragedy of May 4, 1970
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.
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
May 4, 2010