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The News on Television
By Wesley Williamson (1921-2003)

Editor's Note: Though my father wrote this after watching John F. Kennedy's assassination 'again and again and again' in the 60s, it is (sadly) even more true today when reality TV dissolves the boundaries between news and entertainment.

See the refugees, aimless as sick ants,
Between their sagging tents
Play children with wizened faces
And old men's bellies satirizing plenty.
In front the women squat, breasts empty sacks,
Heads hunched between bat-pointing shoulders,
Forgotten fingers fretting with a pebble:
Exhaustion holds the body still
But deep within the skull
A frantic animal
Slams between bloody walls.

See the riot in the civilized city;
A Sunday silence fills the empty street
Sparkled with broken glass; here
A car burns quietly; there, in the gutter,
A boy slumps in his blood.
Shimmering out of focus through the smoke
A tank jerks and whines from the corner,
Its mindless turret swaying
Taut for the snake-strike,
the whip-crack reflex.

See the assassination of the important person;
The friendly smile twisted in the rictus of dying,
A careless wave flung away in the abandon of agony.
The dazed spectators, captured in uncertain attitudes,
Shuffle into the poses of conventional mourning
And swallow the sickness of shock
To find the right phrase
For a funeral eulogy.

Do not concern yourself, you did not know the man;
He was only a flicker of photons
Across a luminous screen:
Not the husband for whom a stricken widow wept
Not the small chattering child
Who in a little while
Will be silent; not the brave boy
Who was all your pride, and now
Lies dying on a dusty street, the track of tears
Still clear on his broken face.

Why should you be concerned? It was only another
Program, on television.

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