“First TV in a Mennonite Family” by Julia Kasdorf, from Sleeping Preacher. © University of Pittsburgh Press.
The lid of the Chevy trunk couldn’t close
on that wooden console with a jade screen
and gold flecks in the fabric over the speaker.
They sent us to bed then set it up
in the basement, as far from our rooms
and the dinner table as they could get,
out of sight for grandparents’ visits.
The first morning, Mother studied the guide
and chose Captain Kangaroo for me,
but when we turned it on, the point of light
on the screen grew into black-and-white men
lifting a stretcher into the back of an ambulance.
Each click of the huge, plastic knob
flashed the same men, the same ambulance door
propped back like a broken wing.
After that, we were forbidden to watch everything
except the Captain and “I Love Lucy.”
Yet, when Dad returned from business in Chicago,
I heard him tell Mom how police beat the kids
under his hotel window, and I knew whatever it was,
that vague, distant war had finally come.