“San Francisco Mourning” by Julia Wendell
Barrett Warner sent us a video and I asked, what was the story behind it?
Barrett: We’d been asked to San Francisco to read and so we were out over the election. Julia wrote the poem. The pics of flowers and city and Alcatraz were just off our phones. She wrote the poem and played piano and read the second part and I just read the first part. It was so weird blending a professional highlight with such a political low light … Trump winning, etc.
Later he sent this introduction to the piece from Julia:
Julia: I’m old enough to remember the day Kennedy was shot. Also blurry Neil Armstrong’s echoing, static-y words amped all the way from the Moon. I was pinned up against a playground chain link fence when we heard that our President had fallen; an episode of Bewitched was pre-empted so we could all watch Neil Armstrong step live into our living rooms and onto the Sea of Tranquility; I was two minute licking a horse at Pimlico when the Twin Towers fell, the dark news passing from jockey to jockey like a sick game of Telephone. I remember sitting in classrooms at Cornell that had been damaged by Viet Nam War and Civil Rights protestors.
My parents and grandparents also remembered—Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the Great Depression, the signing of day Treaty of Versailles, the day women were first allowed to vote.
Reel back the centuries. Every one of our ancestors would remember a handful of events that changed the world and people’s lives forever, each remembered personally as a specific time and place.
Where were you when Donald Trump won the election? I promise you will remember what you were doing that day the United States took its first giant leap into the Sea of Chaos.
Here’s the video they made. The superimposition of the flowers over the protestors while Julia plays “Hallelujah” is haunting.
Julia Wendell’s most recent book of poems is Take This Spoon. Her memoir, Come to the X is forthcoming from Galileo Books. A 2015Consequence Magazine Poetry Prize winner, she has poems appearing or forthcoming in Forklift Ohio, All We Can Hold, A Collection of Poetry on Motherhood, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere.
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