Life in a small town in the Pacific Northwest was grand
for a boy, playing outdoor games with neighbor children,
climbing fir trees, riding a blue Schwinn bike with pedals
I could barely reach, throwing balls over the pitched roof
of the corner house as friends waited on the other side,
hiding and seeking in our tidy little alley cul-de-sac.
My cousins lived on a nearby farm
where the barnyard was a world of fascination
complete with milking cows and squawking chickens.
I was a first grader in Miss Iva McGillivray’s class
at the Everson-Nooksack Elementary School.
I was so proud of the first and third place ribbons I won
during the fall running races on the school lawn.
Then one terrible November day,
clouds solemnly assembled on distant hills,
children scattered across school playgrounds.
President Kennedy was shot.
Later in our living room at home,
the television showed footage of the Dallas motorcade—
the commotion and screaming,
a car rushing away from the grievous scene,
faces in the crowd marked by tears, wounded by worry.
The strange firecracker sounds kept ringing in my ears,
making me dizzy and uncertain, shattering my innocence.
My mother cried, my father held a troubled look,
a pall settled over my tender years.
Words (c) 2013 Mark Lloyd Richardson