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