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
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
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.