What a moment defines

Burning the ROTC — St. Louis, 1970

Sometimes I think of him,

arm raised above his head

Holding a bottle

already aflame,

an incendiary device.

That moment describes an arc

of movement, and from it a future path.

All moments lead up to this point

and endlessly recede from it

like waves pounding the shore.

Which moment defines his free will?

Filling the bottle,

Lighting the wick,

Attending the rally,

Shouting into the crowd?

Or when fingers release,

Promoting the madness contained within?

With the gift of Prometheus unleashed,

an angry genie leapt from the bottle,

flames engulfed the building,

destroying lives.

My father was there

that night the war came home,

on the other side of history,

as a Master of the Forsyth Houses,

defender of an institution

that could no longer calm or contain

those enrolled in its tutelage,

those he counseled, tried to calm

when they were past reason.

It was time for action and action was war.

My father thought he was one of them,

a rebellious son in his own family.

Truth hit hard, he was also the man.

The struggle broke my fathers will,

literally burned out, a colleague said.

The student with the bottle

finally gave himself up twenty-seven years

after his path crossed my father’s,

I wonder what he accomplished

with his lost life.

His freedom vanished — what he was

fighting for — that day he exercised

his free will to become: irrational.

How simple a movement,

to raise ones arm and open the palm.

The gesture being the same

For waving, hello or goodbye.

Photographs by Kathy Weinberg 2014. 1st image: Prisoner Escapes, above image: Sirens of Lexington.

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