The Day and the Hour of his Death

On the day and in the hour when John F. Kennedy was shot
I was sitting in the fourth row of Sister Anthony’s first grade class
looking through the tall, many-paned windows at the convent
across the street. I believed the president was in there,
the center of a flower with praying sisters as the petals

because Sister Anthony had told us that the nuns
who weren’t teaching were in the convent praying for him
and where else would the first Catholic president be brought
when they shot him but to St. Peter’s Catholic School
in Monticello, New York? My world was so small.

On the day and in the hour when Martin Luther King Junior was shot
I was . . . I don’t remember where. No one I knew wept,
none prayed. No childish misunderstanding barnacles the terrible ship
of the story. Even that babbler, our TV, was all Twilight Zone,
wonderful world of color-lessness coating the days of our children.

In November 1968 we moved to Florida. I-95 was a dotted line
in places then and we got lost in the spaces, found ourselves on a red road
in Georgia, a black child naked before a bare shack open down the center
with the sunset shining gold down the center and a gold-lit tree conspiring
with the light to speak, You will remember that you do not remember

the day and the hour of his death.April 4 1968, 6:01 PM.
Take My Hand, Precious Lord. His last words. People everywhere crying,
crying and praying, and somewhere, maybe, a little girl gazing
at a hill she takes to be a mountain, at a cloud she imagines
is a hand. Precious Lord. The day and the hour, the death.