October 15, 2012

The Day in Dealey Plaza


That Day in Dealey Plaza, I Remember You Were Wearing Pink
by Katherine Lynn Weldon

The November heat in Dallas was insistent,
glowering down on our parade in the middle
of the day—not as offsetting as a rain cloud,
but more draining than a few raindrops.

It should have been like coming home.

From the third car in the motorcade I could see you,
the delicate bow of your hand beckoning,
the shape of your hair like a bell curve,
your silhouette resonating through me.
I was sweating in my suit and kept
sticking to the leather seats.

Everything about you rang out to me,
called me to mass and morning prayer
each day before dawn. And with your icon
painted in front of me, I counted the beads
on my rosary until the echo of your presence
had finally died down, my ribs no longer
reverberating from the thunderous volume of you
and pulse steadily sinking back to normal.

A father lifted his child onto his shoulders
to better watch you drive by, and I understood
his need to stare. It was then that the dissonant
noise of firecrackers and screaming in the streets
drowned out the beautiful sound of you.

I remember how you helped to push his stretcher in,
the way his brain spewed over the side and onto the sidewalk.

A secret service man stood by my side
and addressed me as “Mr. President”
before I even knew that he was dead.

I remember your stockings, saturated in blood as you
sat outside in the waiting room like everyone else.
Your hat was gone—lost in the fray,
and you held your head in your hands.

Crowded in that tiny room, we waited for you.
You were composed, if momentarily, and stood
beside me as I took my oath. And all I could think of
was the small, warm part of you pressed against me,
the scent of you masked by the iron smell of blood.

It only took 28 seconds to be sworn in
and you returned to your candlelight vigil by his side.
I don’t think you ever again stood so close to me.

The bell of you tolled his funeral and we touched our
handkerchiefs to his newly formed relic to bless us.

And all I could say was, “I need you worse than he did.” And I meant it.

* * *

Katherine Lynn Weldon graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.A. in Creative Writing through New College. In 2007, she was a fiction finalist in the NFAA competition and in 2008 she won the University of Alabama’s 1st place fiction award. She has served as the head editor of the award-winning student-run literary magazine, Cadence, and has also worked on The New College Review. She currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

What do you think is the attraction of the historical fiction genre?

For me, it's the people. I love to take a well-known historical figure and show readers a different perspective on them. It's easy for characters in history to lose that sense of humanity we get from fictional characters, and historical fiction helps to re-define and re-humanize.