Where They Were and What They Were Doing

Where They Were and What They Were Doing
by matt cook
I was looking through Milwaukee newspapers
From the day after John F. Kennedy was shot—
There was this auto body worker
Who brought his BB gun to work that day;
He was arrested for shooting his BB gun
Out the windows of the body plant
At passing automobiles—
That’s where he was and what he was doing
On the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
There was this biochemist.
He was giving this speech at some university in town—
He was inviting the audience to imagine
A strain of pneumonia bacteria
That was wearing a heavy armor suit that was actually made ofprotein—
That was his public speaking metaphor.
His point was that the protein would act like
A shield against white blood cells.
That’s what that guy was up to that day.
And just outside of town somewhere,
A car slammed into a truck on a rainy highway.
The car guy died of head injuries;
The truck guy was in satisfactory condition with neck pain.
In satisfactory condition with neck pain—
That’s where that guy was, and what he was doing.
The day President Kennedy was shot,
These kids broke into a junior high school.
They stole twenty dollars worth of stamps,
And smashed up an aquarium.
That was their story;
That’s where they were and what they were doing.

0 thoughts on “Where They Were and What They Were Doing

  1. I was shitting in my diapers, wondering who the hell I was. This poem was on Garrison Keeler’s poetry celebration thingy dingy, wasn’t it? It’s pretty good. A concept, worked through well enough. It makes a decent poem. I wonder: is poetry more than imagery and stories? This is juxtaposition of all that, and it makes a damn good poem. I see thousands of them, everywhere. I like it, but is this the way sediment settles in to a respectable layer we call American Poetry? A final middling place that means Good Poetry. I’m frustrated. Stuff like this seems like it settles for the status quo – what everyone is asking for. Is there more, or have I just been drinking too much bourbon? That said, good poem. I’m just hungry for something that spins loops in my mind more effectively than alcohol. I WANT. I just don’t know what it is.

  2. Rejoining of a Splitting Headache
    The bourbon fairy is rang your bell
    sounds a tinkle for want of thirst
    like a coin on lead crystal glass
    dry fingers tap hollow on the bottle,
    certainly not calling more bourbon
    or a reminiscence of what once had filled
    but for a place to lay a spinning head
    and a kind hand to stay the gong
    rung as stone skips twice and again
    there can’t be more than has been
    soured eyes burn as fires dwindle
    be grateful when the bottle’s gone
    better than a clock chimed to tell
    it’s time you were full off to sleep
    there a stone can sink to rest
    thirst settled into depthless drink
    to join dreamt of sunken bottles
    spent, quenched, and put to bed.

  3. Weird dreams. Contexts rising out of contexts like trees sprout out of seeds. There’s weird stuff that goes on with really good poetry. I don’t really have any issue with this poem, it’s very good, but I spent most of yesterday reading through some 20 odd journals and web sites, looking for magic. What I found was an awful lot of good, ironic, emotive, well-written poetry that all began to sound the same. I think I’ve been spending too much time thinking about this stuff, wondering why it works, and reading deeply into poetry by people like George Oppen. The objectivists gave such an incredible push into new directions and approaches to poetry. I’m wondering, are there any active writers today that are really breaking new ground, doing something that is really outstanding? Or has it all become a mishmash of craft, style, attitude, and well-drawn imagery? Nothing wrong with any of that, but what really makes a truly great poem? I get to thinking in these directions and I might as well be turning into Robert Pirsig. Total insanity.

  4. where they were and what they were doing beta
    by emma blowgun
    I was reading through cedar rapids newspapers
    from the day after nancy reagan told kids to
    “just say no” the first time–
    There were some hippies toking up at the legs of
    the lincoln memorial that day;
    the government fucked them over and sent
    them to jail because they
    gave in to the peer pressure–
    That’s what the hippies and the D.C. police
    were doing that day, the day after nancy told
    the kids to “just say no”
    There was a communist in the USSR, he
    was thinking about how to stop the
    capitalists; he knew that if capitalism
    won, the streets would be filled with poverty
    and sadness that the rich white men would never
    that’s what he was doing the first time
    nancy said “just say no”
    and my dad;
    he was getting kicked out of basketball
    his junior year for underage drinking;
    he should have been smoking chronic
    in the back of a car, parked at
    the edge of a pond on a cold winter night
    with no gas for heat.
    fuck republicans.

  5. A nice thing about this poem is that one isn’t quite sure whether the poem is trying to be sentimental about JFK’s assassination or if the poem is trying to move the event away from sentimentality by putting the lives of everyday people in emphasis.

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