Total Pageviews

Saturday, 2 November 2013

In Remembrance on the Death of JFK – President Kennedy

President Kennedy was assassinated on Friday November 22 at 12:30 pm – 50 years ago. I was 15.  I heard about the shocking news the following day on Saturday morning.  I was walking to school, when I met my friend and she told me about it – (Saturday in Iran is a school day)  But my friend Ron Vazzano has a more vivid recollection from that day.  Here is his story.

So where were we on that day? Almost three-quarters of us were not yet born. And when you weed out kids who were ten years or younger back then, about one in seven Americans now living, presumably remembers with some degree of vividness, that day and the theater of events that would unfold over that long weekend. We would sit transfixed before our sets—first time ever for “24/7-news” type coverage—for hours on end, culminating in the funeral that Monday. “Regular programming” in a realm of three TV networks, wouldn’t resume until Tuesday.

I was a freshman at Manhattan College (two years behind Rudy Giuliani) when first reports began to spread on campus, that Kennedy and Vice President Johnson had been shot. There were no readily accessible TV’s in the vicinity, and so we relied on an ear here and there, glued to a transistor radio, catching unclear or incorrect messages (Johnson of course was not shot) which were relayed to those of us clustered in the quadrangle as if in a third world village awaiting word. These were what I have just referred to as modern times?

Why was JFK in Dallas anyway? I didn’t know. Nor was I aware back then, of the animosity that had been brewing in Texas over his pending visit. My agenda that Friday included placing bets in the cafeteria at lunch for that weekend’s football games on “the ticket,” a small time bookie sheet distributed by a classmate to a dedicated clientele. And while Kennedy was the cat’s pajamas at this all male Catholic college, I certainly wasn’t following his doings as closely as the point spreads that November. The high drama of his presidency had taken place with the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of the previous year. In comparison, this autumn was benign.

But it was now time to go to the next class. And being the dutiful students we were, we went, though as if sleepwalking through a bad dream. We were still unsure as to whether Kennedy was alive or dead as we entered that room. What happened then, is something I tried to capture in a poem I wrote thirty-five years after the fact. Predominantly in tercets and rhyme, it mimics a classic poetic construct that we had been reading as part of the syllabus for that course.

II. Greek and Latin Lit: 101

Upon entering the room, you simply said
in a manner of fact, “Yes it’s true. He’s dead.”
      And proceeded to go on with that Friday’s class.

That part where Medea serves up the last
of her children chopped up on a plate
      for Jason, his ravishing appetite to sate.

And unsuspectingly he does.
And we knew just how vile a meal that was
      on this day when the classics were undermined

by Dallas: A Tragedy for Modern Time.
Our time. And you took it away;
      the right to succumb to grief kept it at bay.

You venomous, vainglorious man.
You served up Medea at a moment when
      butchered progeny was the last thing we needed.

With a smirk you watched as we sat defeated.
Was some point proved? Did we pass our test?
      I’ve wondered why we stayed bound to our desks.

Too civilized I suppose, to stomp out of the room.
We should have sent you right to your doom;
      trampled underfoot and dragged across campus

as Achilles, passionate warrior that he was,
had done with the carcass of Hector.
      And now each time at that vector,

that November day crossing of another year,
I taste the irony in your name Mr. Lear.
      And can only wish you an afterlife fixed

to a barge floating down the river Styx
winding its way through the sewers of Dallas
      encircling the sins of fraud and malice.

And each time in passing pray you are sprayed
with the brains that flew from that motorcade.
      In response to my whereabouts that day, I tell
      how you taught us, you bastard, the classics so well.

                                                               —Ron Vazzano

1 comment: