“November 26, 1963” by Wendell Berry

November 26, 1963

We know the winter earth upon the body of the young
President, and the early dark falling:

we know the veins grown quiet in his temples and
wrists, and his hands and eyes grown quiet;

we know his name written in the black capitals
of his death, and the mourners standing in the
rain, and the leaves falling;

we know his death’s horses and drums; the roses, bells,
candles, crosses; the faces hidden in veils;

we know the children who begin the youth of loss
greater than they can dream now;

we know the night long coming of faces into the candle-
light before his coffin, and their passing;

we know the mouth of the grave waiting, the bugle and
rifles, the mourners turning away;

we know the young dead body carried in the earth into
the first deep night of its absence;

we know our streets and days slowly opening into the
time he is not alive, filling with our footsteps and

we know ourselves, the bearers of the light of the earth
he is given to, and the light of all his lost

we know the long approach of summers towards the
healed ground where he will be waiting, no longer the
keeper of what he was.


Wendell Berry, 1934-

“November 26, 1963” first published in The Nation (December 21, 1963)
© 1963 Wendell Berry

On his 3rd birthday (November 25th, 1963), John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes the casket of his late father | Photo by Dan Farrell

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