The Wind at Kent State
by Michael Zempter
On a plaza near the site
I smell the sweet, labored breath of God.
All these ruins seem haunted
By the same cohort of young ghosts.
Shot in the mouth,
Through his head,
He was gone so fast
There was no way
He could follow the rush
Over his useless body.
Confused about what had gone down,
He must stand as he was
When the confusion hit him.
The sky with a hole in it
Over the spot.
Black Squirrels charge up Blanket Hill.
Taylor Hall is a pilgrimage site.
The parking lot by Prentice Hall
Is a cemetery.
She was hurrying
Away from this life,
Late for class,
Throat blown out by the Homeland Defense.
He was caught in a photograph just before
He was caught in the fusillade, looking at something
Don’t know what they would have done with lives
They hadn’t the liberty to live.
She was killed where she stood,
But went behind a car
And lay down beside her lover,
Murmuring “I’m hit.”
Which echoes in his mind for 60 years.
There once was a place
Called Kent State.
The crowd on the Practice Field
Is down to one young man.
He reads deeply, bravely
Manning the silent alarm bell
That once brought the citizens running
From their hidden places.
The monument is lawyerly.
Todd and I wade out into a memory.
We came too late to be killed ourselves.
Yet we can still stand in the line of fire,
Trying to work this thing out.
Us for Ohio, them for the sameness.
We sons of that past pass under the pagoda.
The air turns cold around us
Where the others expressed their ideals.
School is in full session;
A world lined with hard chairs.
I still remember where I was.
Still haven’t pulled the anarchists down.
Still haven’t fled darkest Ohio.
The people I love won’t leave.
I keep watch over certain locations,
Brow intensified against the sun.
The grass, trees, horizon –
The sound of boots on the stairs.
MZ, Nov.5, 2001