Dies Ire (We Interrupt Our Regular Program)
by Allison Chestnut
“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” someone
tweets, but few Twitter readers give reply. I was in
second grade, too young and innocent to know how this day
became the day separating hope from now, the way a
cook who cracks the egg cuts yolk from clear mucosal white.
My teachers didn’t tell me. My world retained simplicity ‘til
home revealed that nothing would be simple any more.
In 1968, as I read Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Martin Luther King
went to Memphis. The evening news at supper showed the
footage–black and white--of fingers pointing to another
building window, another man slumped silent past a medical
reprieve. This balcony held lovers of a different sort, still
universal in their scope, as are all dreams whose dreamers
do not live to see their dreams complete. In June, my school
recessed. I woke in time for Captain Kangaroo. Instead, I saw
unedited in color or in sound, fear moving face to face, and
face to floor then loud in voices lacking nationalities. Fear and
grief are universal homonyms, vowels naked without consonants
to bind them. RFK, bloody on the floor, re-dies with each
network news broadcast. This will not touch me here at home.
I am too far removed for politics to make a point in death.
“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” the anchor tweets,
but few if any readers answer him. Who remembers Lennon shot,
the Berlin Wall or Towers crumbling into dust? History barely
grazes cyber consciousness, yet children know the enemy at large,
who sits at lunch and smiles their names, who goes to Sandy Hook
and Columbine, and haunt with emailed threats on social walls: how
well they know the enemy so close, so unsuspectingly like them.
Allison Chestnut has been published in Foliate Oak, Caveat Lector, The Southern Mule, Windhover, Wordpeace and Minerva Rising. Her poem "County Road 518 at County Road 24" received a 2016 honorable mention in the 2016 AWP Intro Journals Project competition. She received the MFA from Mississippi University for Women where she studied with Kendall Dunkelberg, Mary Miller, Shayla Lawson, and TK Lee. She has read poetry at SAMLA, SCMLA, Mississippi Philological Association and the Conference on Christianity and Literature. She holds the PhD from Louisiana State University and is currently professor of English at William Carey University.