We rose, I want to say,
became who you dreamed we
were. Realized our better
nature, I long to say,
because I want to see
you whole again.
But we have fallen farther than
your deadest imagining, and
your heads are always broken.
Jack’s skull perpetually
shatters in Dallas, shatters
into Jackie’s lap. It is shattering
backward through peril and possibility,
through nuclear warheads and Peace Corps.
It is shattering back to inauguration day, to
what you can do for your country.
It is shattering always,
even the start haunted by that
end, the fine cracks crazing his soft
cranium within Rose’s womb eight
years before Bobby began.
His head broken, too,
shards of dislocated bone
ruining the delicate brain
that rose from despair after
Dallas to call us to something better,
the mind that quelled a likely riot
the night King died, meeting
the anguish of that day
even in our sleep pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
with the anguish of the ages, Aeschylus
crying up what light remained
until in our own despair against our will
comes wisdom through the awful grace of god.
A half-century gone and yet some
mornings I can scarcely rise for the
weight of his blood, his bright
blood spilling from the small
hole behind his ear, spilling
on the kitchen floor of
a Los Angeles hotel where
now stand schools that
commemorate his good head,
his intact head, and beneath it
the heart stopped by violence
that does not cease ignorance
that does not end darkness
that will not relent.
Where is my image of your unspoiled beauty,
the solace of remembering you once lived?
That you were possible; that we were.
For decades I recalled you whole:
Brothers, where has my vision gone?
I cannot see
I cannot see your heads unbroken.