Jessica de Koninck

My Grandmother Talked to Dolls

Through my bedroom window I stare
across the street at the back
of JFK’s head. Rather I stare
at a place in the park where a pedestal
holds a weathered bronze bust.

The statue, a poor likeness. Photographs,
my memory, and a profile in Galway,
I happened upon once, come closer.
Half a century has passed
since this sculpture was unveiled,
in Atlantic City at the ’64 convention
when the Democrats refused to seat
the Mississippi Freedom delegation.

Fifty years since my safe world cracked
open with the president’s brain spilling
onto the seat of the Lincoln convertible
and Jackie’s lap. What happened
in Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary
could not happen in the America
my mother wanted for me. The crack
of gunshots changed that.

I have become older than Jack,
than Bobby, than Martin,
than Michael Schwerner, James Cheney, Andrew Goodman,
than John Lennon,
than all but 36 who died
at the World Trade Center.

My father
would not talk
about the war.
My grandfather
could not speak
without tears.
My grandmother
talked to dolls.

Almost everyone sitting
in our fifth-grade classroom
that day, the President shot,
had a Shoa story locked
in a second-hand breakfront.
The uncle in the family four floors
below us had lost his foot leaping
from a cattle car to Auschwitz.

In bronze John Kennedy’s
facial features lack expression.
Even in the dark I cannot
fall asleep. How can this
be a love poem? After so many years
I tell you my story. I want you
to know who I am.