Sunday, November 15, 2015

THAT DAY… November, 1963…

You prince and king and everybody's hero,

Idol of the poor,

Friend of intellect and all we knew to be

In our reborn post-war world.

Could any mature man or woman

Not weep

THAT day . . . when

Ignominy raped our youthful joy?

Why . . . oh God . . . why????

The cry of Dallas town

Will echo down the empty alleys of time

As long as there is any wind

To blow empty papers along deserted city streets.

Until the last corn stalk

In western civilization upholds an autumn sky.

Until the last grave is dug

In what we call.

America . . .

Don't tell us, critic man, there are no

Messiahs of politics, no kings in democratic states. . .

Grown men were not ashamed to cry. . .

That day.

Their women kissed the dust with women's tears.

Women have no monopoly on weeping.

We know to live is to weep

Sometimes. . .

That day

Everyone of us knew

A little part of ancient Greece.

Tragedy became large, wide-eyed,

Horribly personal. The terrible events were echoes,

Tapes and files and heart-rending photos

Of a world's pathos and grief we had

Always known, since our Virgilian days, our first touch by Euripedes.

Some part of each of us died

That day. Our own red blood spurted out in Dallas.

The ballads now sing "In Dallas-town…"

The elegies will sing a hundred years from now

And carry on the soft winds

Tragedy's tale…

God will there will be elegies…

In a world not quite all western…

A hundred years from now…

Thelma Jacqueline Straw


  1. Thelma, this poem is heartbreakingly beautiful. I've read it several times and it says so much so well. Thank you.

    Barbara Bent

  2. I really value the opinion of someone who is as brainy as you. Thank you. tjs

  3. Lynn Demsky wrote: " I was in school - teacher wheeled a TV into the classroom and we watched on TV - When the President was announced dead - the school buses hauled us all home early." ( )

  4. I was in 6th grade in Sr. Mary Margaret's classroom in what was called the Old Church. These are the days before cell phones of course, and the only telephone in our part of the school was in the 3rd grade teacher's room that had been a vestry in days before the new church was built. The 3rd grade teacher came into the room without knocking (a surprise in and of itself) with tears pouring down her face. She walked to Sr. Mary Margaret's desk, leaned over, and in what may have been supposed to be a whisper, but turned out to be a loud sobbing voice, said, "The President has been shot in Dallas." Sr. Mary Margaret shot out of her chair, grabbed the beads at her waist and announced, "Children, on your knees and say the rosary for our President." We stayed on our knees long enough to pray the rosary, then we were dismissed from school. We did not know it then, but the President had been pronounced dead while we were praying. When I got home from school, my mother had the TV on and I learned that he had died. I don't think we turned the television off until coverage went off the air. I don't remember what day the funeral was, but we watched that from beginning to end. If it was a school day, we had that off as well.

  5. I was working behind the desk in the listening library in the student union at the University of Texas in Austin. A student came in and told me the president had been shot. I don’t know if it was the look on his face or the divided atmosphere on campus about Kennedy, but I leaped off my stool and said, “That’s a terrible thing to say.” He kind of smirked and said it was true. There was a TV outside the room in a kind of living room/patio area. I went out to look at the TV and confirmed it. I was afraid I would cry if I made a general announcement, so I went to each person individually and told them. The next few days the campus was completely deserted.

  6. I myself was working as Dean of Admissions in a junior college in Newport, R.I. That afternoon I was supposed to meet with my counterpart at Salve Regina College - the Dean called me in tears and cancelled the meeting - because of the news that was just coming over the radio from Dallas. As you can imagine, because of Jackie's connections with Newport, the whole place was devastated that whole week... Thelma

  7. Your poem was exceptional. from Sally Pecor, Mechanicville, NY - sjpecor!earthlink

  8. From Marilyn Levinson: " I was teaching a high school Spanish class when the news came over the PA. I'll never forget how one of my students connected the assassination to Lincoln's."

    Thank you, Marilyn, tjs