JFK in Ireland
Like many people my age, I have never shaken off the horrible shock of JFK’s murder fifty years ago. His abrupt removal from American life—in so bloody and surreal a fashion—was a loss felt with special intensity by Irish Catholics. Hard to process, as we say today. The photo below was taken on 22 November 1963. In suit jacket and skinny tie, I am exiting the chapel on the campus of Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Students were streaming in and out of the chapel that day in a frenzy of stunned bereavement. I was in my first semester of college and it was brutally clear to me that life in these United States would never be the same. I pick at the what-ifs in my mind all the time, as I’m sure is true of many others who remember that day.
I have been three kinds of dog: Border
Collie, Wolfhound, Black Mouth Cur. I remain
talented at herding and hunting. I have also been
an owl, a raccoon, a rat, and a monkey.
There’s so much history inside my head it’s hard
to keep it straight. The Barbarians at the Gate,
the False Popes, Hammurabi’s Code,
the Potato Famine, the Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
I even saw Victor Mature kill a lion barehanded.
These days I travel mostly by time machine, though
I have a really bad sense of direction. I crash into
the past, careen into the future. It’s so confusing.
I tried to warn President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
not to go to Dallas on November 22nd, 1963.
But I got off at the wrong exit. Not that he would
have listened. I saw him once, in Manhattan, in 1962.
It was the Columbus Day Parade and he drove by
in a convertible, beautiful, tan, godlike. “Don’t go
to Dallas next year on November 22nd!” I shouted.
But he just waved, smiled, and drove on.
[from Malpais Review, Spring 2013]