In the Present State of Witness
By William Doreski
Peterborough, New Hampsire
Strung out along the highway,
waving signs at grinning traffic,
our little clot of protest
suffers under judgmental sun.
Even in shade we wilt and nod
with a greedy vegetable thirst.
Local cops cruise us and wave
from air-conditioned vehicles
braced with massive bumpers
and armed with loaded shotguns.
You comment on every honk
and friendly gesture, count
the few rude middle fingers,
note that certain auto colors
seem friendlier than others.
Like kids on a boring road trip
we pass the hot noon hour
parsing tenor and baritone
registers of tooting horns.
The rare soprano or bass
confounds our calculations
but amuses and alerts us
to factors we can’t account for.
So the protest protests itself
in the cool secret dark inside us.
The message of our signs exhorts
a more thoughtful and inclusive
lifestyle, urbane and sculpted
in the finest Carrara marble.
But America’s too ramshackle
and nervous for such a vision,
the tattered pages of bibles
torn from tired old bindings
and wafting across rock-hard sky,
miming and mocking angel wings.
We’ll never escape the politics
of barbecued meat suffering
as the thickest flavors must.
We’ll never unravel every thread
of that fatuous Confederate flag
flying against a thunderstorm.
I watch you watching the traffic.
We look too small and irrelevant
to punctuate the national text;
but at least we hold our ground
more firmly than Charles the First
held England the moment before
his head fell into a basket.
Copyright © 2021 by William Doreski.