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American Pieta

Joseph Ross

On John Filo’s photograph of Mary Vecchio kneeling beside Jeffrey Miller, who along
with Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder were killed by the Ohio
National Guard at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.

She has been mourning
for forty years.

Mary Vecchio still smells
the acid anger of gunshots,

still hears students screaming
like slaps of shock,

still kisses the ground,
wanting to bury herself,

pressing her body low into
the college sidewalk

hoping the National Guard’s
bullets need more altitude

than she does on that day when
the protest became the war.

But she sees
her friend, Jeffrey Miller,

lying flat, face down,
arms at his side,

in a spreading pool
of his own bleeding country.

Mindful that bullets
sometimes become seeds,

she blooms into sorrow.
Her priestly arms rise

and open in horror, in rage,
in a question

only America can answer,
but never will.

Joseph Ross

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