Thursday, April 19, 2012

May 4, 1970

Morning was already warm, the sun beat
my sweating brow as I walked to the Oval,
past green Jeeps filled with tense soldiers,
past the detritus of last night’s battle:
torn flyers, shattered glass,
spent tear-gas canisters still reeking,
past garish, red ON STRIKE! posters,
to begin another chaotic day.

Because ugly war raged in Vietnam,
sharp tension hung over Columbus,
a grey, stinking haze imposed
on this brilliant
spring day,

So we lined up; the concept was simple.
student marshals, green armbands as our shields,
stood between swearing students
and nervous guardsmen,
whose black bayonets
wavered mere inches from our necks.
The idea was easy; being students,
other students
would respect
our vulnerability;
and not being demonstrators,
the guardsmen would
respect our lives.

It worked fairly well
until a rumor
about death
at Kent State.

Angry, bold, silent,
sweeping aside all respect,
they pushed us back,
into the bristling line of steel.
I looked behind me
and saw rifles lowered
to shoulder level,
aimed right through me,
and hearing the smooth, deadly glide
of bolt into waiting chamber,
I dove to the ground
and joined the fleeing, terrified
rush of children.

That evening, safe in my parents’ home,
far from the deserted campus,
I watched the news with my father.
I saw hard-hatted construction workers
angrily beating students, just like me,
on the bloody streets of New York,

and muttering about getting what they deserved,
my dad looked at me,
and saw my

Suddenly silent
he turned off
the TV.

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