November 21, 1963

Late November in one of my happiest years:

we wrapped ourselves in the soft thrill of friendship

not knowing how rare it was and how hollow -

for lack of it - would be the days and years ahead.



Chattering with the sophistication of underclassmen

we crossed a vacant city lot grown over with weeds,
toward the road that exited the airport.

The young president and his wife had landed and would

pass here on their way to speak in Houston.


His red hair flamed

in the late afternoon Texas sunlight. 


He waved and each of us stored the memory

of an instant as the car sped by, 

the woman at his side,
 his shining hair,
the slightest wave of his hand, 

the memory – a still photograph in each of our minds.



In less than a day, he was dead;
hit by two rifle shots. His wife was returning,

spattered with his blood
to the emptiest of homes, the White House.


Another memory – but this one with the remove

of miles and overwritten with the static snow
from our 
early technology television sets.



Those same sets had been on that morning before he died

as we searched to see if there would be news of his visit.
Maybe a camera had caught us as well
and our friends would see us so close to history.
Instead, we saw four floppy-haired singers
from Britain who were planning a visit to America. 



A few hours later, there was only the news 
that the man
on whom we had hung our hopes was dead.


Friendships that we thought were the most precious
gifts 
in our lives that day,
faded with the years.


Each of us had lives to live, purpose and gifts to give. 


The floppy-haired Brits gave us the happy crutch 

we needed to weather war and loss,
and, not least,
 the death of that soft thrill of friendship
we still had heart to feel
on November 21, 1963.