SEPTEMBER 28, 1973

Alan Asnen
Nov 7, 2019 · 3 min read
W H Auden Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

“A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy…” —

A night like this demands collage

filled with images colliding

I wonder if Cornell is even aware

I ran to Calvary upon hearing

and asked Father Pike to do it now

He did when I told him, standing

at the font the look on his face

he knew even as the news of the blast

came across the streets.

And now I am here wet still

where I first saw him

three days after my birthday

what a gift playing with it

standing behind that very trashcan

on snowy Saint Marks Place

as he wandered casually facing

Avedon all baggy both of them

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan

What quest down those Ukrainian streets?

To learn Yiddish? Perhaps to find me?

There he was in the flowing monochrome

of snow, its purposeful irony as if he

desired it into being but softly.

What killed him there in Vienna?

Was it hearing last month DJ Kool Herc

giving birth to Hip Hop?

It could not have been the news

of Roe beating Wade I think

that was music to him.

He must have been cheering all these days

while TV shouted Sam Ervin trembling

Southern accents and Jim McCord’s narrow eyes

slowly telling truth John Dean nervous

and Maureen behind him, always.

Was he disheartened by the sight of POWs

returning while bombs rained down on Cambodia?

Was it Wounded Knee?

New York City his home now

he must have been proud of

our new World Trade Center

I was there at the opening.

Did that Sears Tower tear him down?

Did he know of the first cell phone call

and was he ready to dial?

Or did none of this matter to him?

I had a choice today

to be baptized one way or another

a choice once again

as my friends

walked into a storm making it larger

seeding a cloud with their special crystals

they knew what they were about

it was vengeance

vengeance large and vengeance small

vengeance for a history of violence

vengeance for a moment of death

vengeance for a conspiracy of decades

vengeance for a man and a nation

only days ago

only south of here

celebrated in Congress


by hoisting upon his petard a navigator

to State of that very violence

but I chose differently

not because I disagree with sentiment

but because I have different sentiments

and express sentiments differently

Allende is dead as well

babies are dead everywhere

there will be more dead babies

this cannot be stopped

everyone kills babies

they die for good and ill

rational and irrational causes

why we make them sometimes

thoughtlessly is beyond me

and so I baptize not bomb

to see if I have a discovery within

not because I know an answer

because I search

I want nothing of religion

I wish to be who I am

move forward into life

with low-keyed meditation

and irony, speaking cryptically

of an impending doom

playing the game of knowing

as diversion when not living

avoiding that rigorous honesty

as a preference to gain

a sense of rhythm first. First

let me strip others of deception.

I do not wish to kill

not for vengeance

not for love

not for some perceived necessity

not for any reason

not any man nor beast

no thing

not again

He is dead today

and nothing is risen.

Alan Asnen copyright 2019

For Vaishali Paliwal, Jenny Justice, Guérin Asante, Meg and Golda Fukesman

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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