Almanac Poetry: ‘Dealey Plaza, November 22’

Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas, in 2003. The former Texas School Book Depository building is at left. (Source: Wikipedia.)


Dealey Plaza, November 22


He’s in the zone,
high up there,
on the sixth floor
of the book depository building.
Typical left-wing loony, he’d
sojourned in Soviet Russia,
distributed propaganda leaflets
(an ersatz sixties Big Issue seller),
been kicked out of the marines.
Now here he is,
with the rifle,
eye straining through the sight.
The presidential cars approach …
Kennedy’s skull explodes.
Governor Connally is shot
through the chest, wrist and thigh.
Who knows how many shots are fired (he doesn’t),
especially with his mate on the grassy knoll.
The First Lady climbs
out of the back seat
of the presidential limousine,
covered in her husband’s blood.
Oswald throws the rifle aside.
Hurries down stairs,
through bland suburban streets,
shoots a local cop
(this wasn’t part of the plan),
is arrested in a picture theatre
where he’s smacked about and subdued.
Bombarded with questions by the police.
Day becomes night becomes day.
Then another nutter,
redneck crim, Jack Ruby,
enters from stage-right with a pistol,
mortally wounds him in the guts.
Not long before, Lee Harvey cried out
as he passed the TV cameras,
“I am just a patsy.”
Who knows what he meant.


(Acknowledgements: first published in my second poetry collection, Lionheart Summer, Picaro Press, 2011; reprinted by Ginninderra Press, 2018.)


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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose. He laments the extinction of Cascade Pale Ale and Kiwi Lager.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    I’m intrigued by the assassination of JFK and all the associated theories etc. A few years ago during an enforced stay over in Dallas due to cancellation of flights I was able to spend a day visiting the site and associated museum and memorials etc. Quite chilling to be able to stand in the spot Oswald supposedly fired the shots and look down to where the motorcade was. What struck me was the space and distance, everything is more compact and a lot closer than most photos & film taken at the time indicated. Many of those shots tend to be long shots emphasising the distance from the window to the motorcade was further away than it actually was. There is an x marked on the road to indicate the exact place JFK was hit. A bit ghoulish I thought! Terrific poem KD!

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for your highly interesting comments, Col.

    I’m so pleased that you found the the poem a rewarding one, too, especially given your deep interest in the subject matter.

  3. A lot to ponder here.  I too visited the spot that Col mentioned (back in 2000) and was also struck by how close it was to the presidential motorcade.
    I like how you have a left-wing loony (Oswald) at the start and a redneck from stage-right (Ruby) at the end.  

    I’ve been listening a lot to Dylan’s ‘Murder Most Foul’ this year – where Dylan somehow uses this very subject (i.e. the assasination of JFK) to paint a picture of modern day America.  ‘The blood-stained banner’ says it all.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, DB, for your response – great stuff for me and other readers to ponder.

    Re the “left wing loony” and the “redneck from stage-right” – and the Dealey Plaza “stage” – the whole assassination, to me, was in some ways like a very tawdry, depressing melodrama.

    I confess I’ve only listened to bits of the Dylan epic. This sounds a bit sacreligious, I know, but at the time I wasn’t in the mood to listen to a seventeen minute long song – I will have to rectify this at some point!

  5. Great stuff KD. JFK was the first Lady Di. Been absorbing The Crown more as a portrayal of dysfunctional family and relationships than history.
    Wondering if Netflix would ever do a reimagining of JFK with all domineering father; dead brother; war hero; infidelities set against the political and social drama of the Cold War, civil rights and post WW2 industrialisation? Too close to home probably.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks, Peter – I’ve never thought of JFK as the first Lady Di, but he certainly fits the bill (to use yet another theatre term in connection with this material).

    I haven’t seen any of The Crown, though on the basis of what I’ve heard, perhaps I should try to catch up with it.

    Also, there have been so many takes on JFK in documentaries and “fictionalized” accounts, but not one, I suppose, exactly along the lines you put forward – I’d certainly watch the show.

    And a parting comment: one of the best lines/quotes of the whole assassination saga, was when JFK is supposed to have remarked to Jackie only hours before his death: “We’re heading into nut country today.”

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    Kevin, I have a degree in US postwar political history taught same for years and travelled through US in 97, visiting many sites – where they were born, lived, were assassinated, buried. JFK, RFK, Malcolm X, MLK et al. Have new books on JFK and Malcolm in a pile waiting to be read at home. They all continue to fascinate, if only for the tragedy, wasted life angle. I Have a soft spot for Teddy.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Andrew. Many thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

    The sixties, unfortunately, was an age of assassinations, and you’re certainly right that these killings, especially the circumstances surrounding them, continue to fascinate.

    I too have a bit of a soft spot for Teddy, probably the least charismatic of the major Kennedy males, though one who contributed a great deal to American society in his long political career.

  9. Just red your poem, Kev. Well put together. JFK’s assassination has always fascinated me. Over the years I have red many books about it and seen numerous documentaries. Many of them speak of conspiracies galore. Others saying Oswald was a fall guy etc. Ruby’s shooting of Oswald meant he couldn’t come to trial – a real tragedy as more light could possibly be shed on it. Many believed the Mob blackmailed Ruby into silencing Oswald. If so Rudy never revealed it. I doubt if we’ll ever know for sure the whole sorry story.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your response, Fisho. Glad you liked the poem. I think your overall summary of material concerning the assassination is on the money.

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