The Potomac — Poetry and Politics - Nancy Corbett
Winter 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Nancy Corbett
   First Death

A television is wheeled into the classroom. We donít watch cartoons or anything like that, just school stuff.. Today is a news show saying the president is dead. Daddy says the news is for grownups, so I donít really listen, but I hear. I tell myself this is not for me. At recess, Leslie who lives next door asks me if I saw the news. I say yes. Iím flattered that sheís talking to me because Iím in first grade and sheís in fifth. Usually she doesnít talk to me. I give a shy laugh. Her eyes fill with tears and she says, ďDonít laugh! Donít you know the country could go to war? We could all die.Ē I feel so ashamed for laughing and I realize that what they said on the TV was real. The president is dead.

I go home and turn on the TV to watch Felix the Cat like I do every day. I need the comfort of something familiar on this day when everything is different. I feel like a dog who comes home from a walk to find that the furniture has been rearranged. It walks around and around wondering where the old room went, thinking that everything smells the same but itís not the same. Such a puzzle.

But Felix the Cat is not on TV. Instead, theyíre showing that same news program. They show it over and over and over for days and weeks. They show it on every channel all day, all night, over and over. The black car moves slowly down the street, and then terror. Jackie scrambles out and onto the trunk of the car, over and onto the trunk of the car the black car moving slowly down down the street. I watch her terror, her perfect animal reaction to escape over and over and over. I am there with her in feet pajamas scrambling, scrambling to get away get away get away as the black car moves slowly down the street.

ďThatís when you started having nightmares,Ē my mother always said. Well, no. Iíd been having nightmares for a long time. This was when I started to wake up screaming.


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