I saw the Beatles when they first came to America,
it was winter, 1964,
they seemed to bring the Earth with them,
streaming to New York on Pan Am
to Kennedy International,
as sure as planets on their course,
four firmamental days.
Three thousand fans waited,
bunched behind balustrades,
swells of teenagers, mostly girls like me,
dressed in shirtwaists and a-lines,
tweedy coats and smart button boots,
our eyes bright with cold,
mouths arched in gasps and shrieks,
an anxious euphoria.
I could feel my heart beating
in fast liquid thumps,
the pump and shudder of anticipation.
Triple ripple, three in a row all day
from Murray the K,
the 5th Beatle cried in my transistor,
songs were so important then,
moaning of longing and loss,
the very twang of what we thought was love.
Energy levitated over the crowd,
dense and scattered,
it was like a circus,
like clowns being baptized, or saints of court and canvas,
horses galloping beside the cadillac limos,
photographers tripping sideways to roll some film,
bodies carried on stretchers, stepping over other bodies.
I saw John first on the steps of the plane,
John with a grin
that went everywhere at once, then
Ringo, a block of teeth and ample nose,
Paul, heavy lidded bedroom eyes,
and George, years too young, the shy one.
All my friends had a favorite Beatle,
I loved John.
Christmas times ten to be with him.
Here was my fantasy: I dream of John,
slipping his hand shyly into mine
soundless detonation in my heart,
warm breath fanned across a flame
burning inside of me,
and suddenly, as devout as holy drinkers,
we dip our faces towards each other, our lips wet,
our first kiss exchanged,
it sits like an amazement between us,
as if a heated needle had touched my heart,
a primal encounter.
Afterwards I am flying, without effort,
Happiness was bigger then.
And just like that, they were gone, whisked away.
The din died down,
the emptiness where they had been,
now a vast echo-chamber,
like something precious was dissolving and pouring away.
My friends and I filed to the subway to go home.
I would see them on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday,
but for a few minutes,
I had breathed the air they breathed,
the fluttering sighs of all of us suspended,
I couldn’t let it go.