In the Present State of Witness 

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                                             [stanza break] 

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 famous 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. 

Analects on Love
Moral aphorisms: