November 22nd, 1963

Already that morning, I’d glared three times

in the charm-free mirror that hung skewiff

over the mantlepiece. Chicken pox

had made a Jackson Pollack of my face

 

and my bloody hair still hadn’t grown.

No school. The finger of exile had pointed

to our back room, where the tele jabbered away.

Soon, my skin would be all scratched off.

 

Meanwhile, rumours of simmering stew

murmured from the kitchen, my mother

on percussive saucepans behind again,

clanging. The coal fire shiffled and ticked.

 

A car in Dallas sleeked across the screen.

Killing – this eternal tension between longings

for syrup pudding and being thin. Jackie

has Black Magic hair, an ice cream smile;

 

Kennedy combed to a sheen. Crinkles fork

from his outer eye, as if he knows the names

of every town and the Lord’s Prayer backwards.

The crowd goes mental as they pass.

 

But now what’s going on?

The crowd with its hands to its mouth.

A cameraman lurches. The newsman blurts,

Something is terribly wrong.

 

Kennedy’s slumped in his wife’s lap.

And blood-mottled, Jackie begs us to look away.

Cradling a new-born tragedy to lay

in her mother’s arms, Poxy flies to the kitchen.

 

But the death of the just-bloomed President of the USA

is not enough to break the martyr’s long watch

at the altar of the oven. Not enough to change

again the interrupted features of her whatnow face.

 

I could feel it then, a new skin forming,

tight enough to hold my own ramshackle self,

but soft and permeable, like unwrapped bandage,

so that the world could come bleeding through.

 

 

© Chris Banks

Published in Smiths Knoll