Prim in my proper dress, I sat
seventh period, red-lining Latin roots:
amo-amiable, rex-regalia. The November sun
blanched the library’s tomes as Lincolnesque
Mr. Stollmeyer listed in, pale as parchment.
The president has been shot, he said.
We fingered our mouths as if testing
for breath How will we tell our students?
It was the feast of St. Cecelia, patroness
of music, pewter harp in hand. Forced
to marry, she remained a virgin, converted
Valerian. Unwilling to worship Roman idols
she was thrown into a vat of boiling oil
for burying bodies of believers rather than
let the vultures peck out their souls
dice their livers like dreck. Unlike Jack,
she escaped unscathed, sweet notes floating
from her throat like swallows. I wonder if
the witty, handsome Jack could sing, recite
his Latin declensions, say his evening prayers. Once,
playing chicken, he cycled headlong into his brother
Joe, flew into the air, floated-until the whoosh,
the blow to the head, sharp, surprising and painful.
Relax, he told himself, twenty-eight stitches woven
into his shock of wheat-colored hair. Too late for stitches
now. His father told him he had the goods. My mother
always said, No good comes to those who warm their hearth
by peddlin’ poteen. The siren of the fire engine
roaring by muffled the message on the loudspeaker.
This poem first appeared in The Kennedy Curse (Exter Press, 2013).
Used here with the author’s permission.