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September 25, 2023

Ask Not

By Robert Paul Allen

Ask Not

The news the Soviets had launched Sputnik
fell on America like an imploded building.
On TV, Yuri Gagarin smiled and waved, while
orbiting the earth, as if he was mocking us.

Before long, JFK challenged the nation
with his pipe dream to be first on the moon.
His enthusiasm compelled us to try.
One Friday afternoon in November,

we toiled in our lab over our reactions.
The blue burner flames flickered
under beakers, when the professor rushed
into the room, stood akimbo, and announced,

“President Kennedy’s been shot dead”!
A collective gasp shushed the hiss of the gas.
I turned off the valve. Bubbles cowered
at the bottom, the reaction’s progress stalled.

Back in my dorm, I watched Jackie
in the limo reach out to him,
helpless in her bloodied suit,
wearing her pill-box hat like a helmet.

No longer would I enjoy his sense of humor,
Boston accent, and frenetic family.
I feared his call, “To land a man on the moon
and return him to the earth safely,”

would be laid aside, forever unfulfilled.
For our generation, what hurt most,
was not that we had lost a President,
but that we had lost our President.

Article © Robert Paul Allen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2023-05-29
Image(s) are public domain.
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