RFK

By Teddy Hempstead

I stole Bobby Kennedy’s face, I am sad to report.
You can see this for yourself.
Not yet a mainstream conspiracy theory,
probably because it is hugely true.
I am exactly Bobby Kennedy’s height,
roughly his frame, precisely his taste in woolen suits.
I should not have sent Sirhan Sirhan
in my CIA sponsored plot to steal his face and life
but we all make mistakes, don’t we? Sirhan
Sirhan, for example, mistakenly shot Bobby
Kennedy in the head from a close range in
a kitchen, apparently, according to him,
at his most recent parole hearing,
which was this year.

What kind of a world is it that Sirhan Sirhan
is still alive but Bobby Kennedy, who quoted
Aeschylus, and knew who he was, is not?
My fault, of course, for wanting so desperately
that New York face, hitched to my skin, terrified eyes
pressed into mine, a face becoming a face
against my will, “by the awful grace
of God”. The body furiously erased,
blood is a form of bodily waste, he was defaced,
my own face-stealing efforts now disgraced,
every forehead wrinkle now debased,
by the awful grace
of Bobby Kennedy and his facial aftertaste.
I love you, I say, talking to my face.

How do you tame the savage grace of man
when that man’s only want is your photogenic profile?
A similar question: how do you grieve
Bobby Kennedy when Sirhan Sirhan’s
reasoning was sound and grounded in
a real and reasonable hatred for my Israel?
If I were to give a speech I would sound
much like Bobby Kennedy, but if Bobby
Kennedy were to write a poem it would be
much better than this. Wrong, it would
be exactly the same, I am Bobby Kennedy,
something you forgot and I did not.

I have always been struck by the similarity
of RFK and JFK to Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus.
They even look quite similar.
But I prefer RFK and JFK
because they are American,
and there are good photographs of them,
but you only get statues with the Gracchi. It’s
understandable, I suppose, though I am
furious about it. I was looking at a photograph
of Bobby Kennedy yesterday, as I do daily,
admiring the way his face adheres to mine,
the same eyes, nose and mouth, the same chin,
an American version of my exact pitch and tone
when speaking or speeching or even talking.
The photograph was one of him off-guard,
looking confused, a sudden polaroid,
very white eyes with turquoise bulbs blooming
gently in the dim light. Clasped hands in
languid grace, not yet aware that they
were being photographed, not yet stiffened
in the light of that big bright bulb, hair perfectly swept,
like mine looks when I do it right, which I don’t.
I take my face off and try very hard to give it back,
through the screen,
distracted by your sparkling eyes
which stare forward, forgiving,
full of compassion and love,
as I blunder inelegantly, faceless, into the path of passing cars.

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