Kennedy in Wexford

There has always been a rumour that the local Bishop
Died the day before Kennedy came to Wexford
In June 1963. There was a feeling, rightly,
That the death would put a damper on the whole occasion.

People might mourn the Bishop or praise the President,
But they could hardly do both on the same day,
So the announcement of the death was postponed,
Until Kennedy had left. A good few must have known,

But they kept quiet on the matter. I have often wondered
If the very prospect of the visit did not, in fact, kill the Bishop.
Perhaps it affected his nervous system. Or froze his heart.
In any case, he lay there undead and unalive, virtual,

His episcopal soul in suspension, like Schrödinger’s cat,
Until Kennedy had waved at us all and departed.
Unlike Kennedy, the Bishop was a good-living, pious man.
He wrote a pamphlet on ‘The Christian Home’ and caused

No fuss until his untimely end. So, once the coast was clear,
You can be sure he went straight to heaven. Yet despite all this,
I believe that if people had been asked to choose between
A dead bishop and a live President, they would have opted for

The latter. I was only eight, but I too would have cheered
For Kennedy. I had been taken out of school and liked
Excitement. We stood on the quays and waited for his car
And went home with news of his suntan and his teeth.

From Vinegar Hill by Colm Tóibín (Beacon Press, 2022). Copyright © 2022 by Colm Tóibín. Used with permission from Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts.