Friday, November 22, 2013

And Where Were You?

I wrote this poem some years ago, and offer it now to commemorate the day ...

And Where Were You?

What was I saying? I stood there
at the podium facing students like me,
all lost in their separate inner minds,
the clipping from the morning Herald
folded in my hand. A message for Phillip, perhaps,
whose blond and flat-topped head
would lead him later to enlist,
to work his way from C-average to
Master Sergeant, and who would never
return from Da Nang. Or one for Rob,
who failed to see any connection between
Civil Rights and the Holocaust,
who denied it even happened.

Current Events, it was called, in the class
titled Civics, where at least once a week
we read the papers. I was standing like that
when the damp-eyed girl from the
principal's office whispered the news
to the teacher behind me, who laid the
lightest hand on my shoulder to stop.
She passed the word along like some
secret we shouldn't tell, that the President
was shot, that he was dead.

I remember the touch of that hand, the
perfume she wore, the sound of her tender
regretful voice, the way the roomful of us
fidgeted our way through the silence
that followed, the nervous giggling
of someone in the rear, the sound of tears
from the next room, the shirts we had on,
the plaid skirts of the girls, the socks they wore,
their perfect shoes, the way our books were
heavy as we lugged them from the room --
everything, everything is there, but
what my news was that day.