The Assassination Lecture
Here's the moment that killed him:
bullet piercing his temple, head
thrown back as if in deep laughter.
And here's us: the crowd lining
the street, waving our little flags,
which were stiff with dye. (A century ago,
we'd be pinkish dots of paint;
now we're these clusters of pixels.)
I can tell you (because I was there)
that our gazes were just cilia
stroking the car, our bodies
mere buoys marking a channel.
Here's the muzzleflash: one leaf
catching the light. Here's a scream:
a cluster darkening. And class,
if you're to understand anything
of history, you have to see
it was the moment that killed him,
not the squeeze of the trigger,
not the network of phone calls
that obtained the gun. Not those
in the government whose voices
threaded the lines, not the lover
whose complicity was suspect.
Not the killer's dear teacher,
who published those tracts
against the system in the journals
of the time. Look at the screen:
like a queen's slip showing,
though she wears one every day—.
And now, students, in my pocket,
I have something special: the bullet,
which, as you've probably heard,
was stolen from the hospital, then
slipped quietly through the populace—
until it came to rest with me.
I'm going to pass it around.
Note its weight in your hand, even
look for a trace of blood. Here,
in our moment, this bullet's just
an inert little snout. It will start
in the front, then weave toward the back.
—Which of you is going to steal it?