the weekly


   Like everyone else of my generation, I can remember exactly where I   was standing and what I was doing on the day that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy nearly killed me – Christopher Hitchens


The blue police-box stands ajar, I say
‘I’ve just this minute seen a man shot dead on the news,’
but that is Oswald, a day later, maybe. The announcer
is hysterical. ‘And he’s been shot!’
Probably he normally
is asked to do basketball. The confusions in my synapses
are radiophonic. The deputy head
interrupts (unthinkable! eheu!) a Latin lesson
to tell us Kennedy is dead, or dying, or something:
we’ve been asked to pray there is no cold war,
short-trousered and pimpled in the private pews
of the prep-school chapel, the hassocks
as hard as hillocks. There are no Daleks in the first episode
in case you thought … something about the stone age, I think,
to where (later) Curtis Le May
wants to bomb back the Vietnamese. All these
strange, peculiar memories. Kennedy looks young, yet he is
almost five years older than my Dad,
and much, much younger than
the Doctor who has come to save the planet.
Years later, you see the Zapruder stills: the way Kennedy’s elbows
stretch as he seems to reach
for his throat, while I am left
with false memories (the news was sent
at almost any time of the day than the one in which
I might have been trying to translate Caesar –
ironic, another victim of a lone assassin. Or were there
fifteen people involved?). And later
the stories of his naps and canoodling with Marilyn, and maybe
an itch to push the button:
nose against nose with Krushchev, the Tardis
rolling through space-time like a long-lost die
looking for a number to come up. I’m parked
in front of the screen, one of a hundred and twenty
summoned to see what the teachers
are keen to see: a sliver of history. Churchill
is still alive. Rolls Razor has not
gone bust. But the blood has splashed in black-and-white
down Jackie’s dress (we are on first name terms),
and soon there are prayers to be offered. For the children. The brother.
The court. For Susan, the Doctor’s assistant. For a sleep free
from missiles and a man hurling himself
over the edge of a car. We came/ we never came
so close to being killed. The conspiracy has begun.


Click here to buy Bill’s poetry collection Ringers

Click here to follow Bill’s New Statesman research


November 22nd is the 50th anniversary of the shooting of President Kennedy in 1963. The day after was the first episode of Doctor Who – in fact, I remember them as a single day, and time differences may well have put them in the same 24 hours.

11 November 2013


Home/Join | List | Next | Previous | Random