-- that today is Hoagy Carnichael's birthday, which I imagine him celebrating quietly with a glass of bourbon as he tickles the ivories (and out of Lauren Bacall's sexy throat comes the Johnny Mercer lyric for How Little We Know, which is playing in my mind even now),
-- that if time were elastic I would write a series of popular history novels under the collective title: What Really Happened. Charlie Orr would design the covers. Hell, he already has designed the covers for the first three books in the series. What Really Happened at Waterloo. What Really Happened in Yalta. And, What Really Happened on November 22, 1963. Charlie's hypothetical library is a fabulous construction.
-- that paranoid conspiracy theories, and narrative genres to which they have given rise, are based on our fundamental inability to understand events. What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963, accounted for the penultimate section of a poem I wrote in my freshman year at Columbia, "The Presidential Years." Here is a fragment:
From The Presidential Years by David Lehman
. The day that Kennedy was killed
Was the day before the Stuyvesant-Clinton football game.
There was a rally in the auditorium
And our coach who was from Texas or Oklahoma said slowly, carefully,
“There isn’t a horse that can’t be bucked.”
Meanwhile half the school was marching along
Fifteenth Street to Union Square and then up to
Forty Second Street and Fifth Avenue and some got up to
Fifty Ninth, and they were parading,
Yelling, “De Witt eats shit” until they were stopped by policemen.
I didn’t go. I stayed in school.
That day I almost got into a fight
With a fellow twice my size on the stairway
And he laughed at me. A friend of mine broke it up.
In English the head of the Physics Department walked
Into the room. He said, “I think you are old enough
To understand this. The President was shot today in Texas.”
I stand up. I do not understand. I say, “What”
And I think, the President was shocked today in Texas.
He leaves the room. I am sorry.
I leave early. The Clinton game is called off,
And the series has since been discontinued.
My French teacher is waiting for me. Smiling shuffling his legs
Touching his teeth with his tongue looking at me
He says, “There is a rumor that Kennedy was shot.
Do you know anything about that?”
March 1967 [published in The Paris Review, #43, Summer 1968]