Morning: The slow rising of a cold sun.
Outside of town the suburbs, crosshatched and wan,
Lie like the fingers of some hand. In one
Of these, new, nondescript, an engine starts,
A car door slams, a man drives off. Its gates
Bannered, streets flagged and swept, the city waits.
Charles Wright, November 22, 1963
On the anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assasination in Dallas, Texas we share an inredible work by Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (Welcome to Dallas) from 1982 alongside a selection of excerpts from an impressive lineup of poems reflecting upon JFK's death and the times that followed it.
"In the wake of Kennedy’s death" journalist Alice George writes in the 2018 Smithsonian magazine feature titled How Poetry Soothed a Nation in Mourning for John F. Kennedy "many newspapers published poetry tied to that weekend. Subsequently, editors Erwin A. Glikes and Paul Schwaber solicited poems about the assassination. Those works, along with some written during Kennedy’s presidency, were compiled into a book published in 1964 and an audio album recorded a year later."
To accompany Pettibon's striking image, in this Online Viewing Room we present a small selection of excerpts of the poems published in Of Poetry and Power: Poems Occasioned by the Presidency and by the Death of President John F. Kennedy.
Is Dead. Is Dead. How all
The radios sound the same.
That static is our seed.
Is dead. We heard. Again.
Chana Bloch, Bulletin
Bullets blot out the Life-Time smile,
Apollo of the picture-page,
Blunt-faced young lion Caught by vile
Death in an everlasting cage:
And, no more young men in the world,
The old men troop to honour him.
The drums beat glum, Slight snow is swirled
In dazzling sun, pale requiem.
G.S. Fraser, Instead of An Elegy
Above the muffled drums,
the high voice of a young soldier
tells the white horses how slow to go
before your widow and children, walking
behind the flag-anchored coffin—
and one riderless black horse dancing!
Robert Hazel, Riderless Horse
A hurdle of water, and O these waters are cold
(warm at outset) in the dirty end.
Murder on murder on murder, where I stagger,|
whiten the good land where we have held out.
These kills were not for loot,
however Byzantium hovers in the mind:
were matters of principle—that’s worst of all—
& fear and crazed mercy.
Ruby, with his mad claim,
he shot to spare the Lady’s testifying,
probably is sincere.
No doubt, in his still cell, his mind sits pure.
John Berryman, Formal Elegy