They believe the world can be good, so I tap
the car horn and raise a fist in solidarity
with the six or seven teenagers, all of them
white, in T-shirts and shorts, gathered safely
on the corner by the hardware, each holding
a hand-lettered, cardboard sign: Equality Now!,
or No Justice, No Peace, or a photograph
of the black man murdered down south by the forces
of order. A couple of them wave in response,
proud to be taking a stand, and I am nearly felled
by the intensity of what I must call love
and a cutting grief for their faith in all of us.
What do they expect will happen now?
They have never seen the grimy abattoirs
of the cities, and surely there is closer wrong,
always and even here, in our northern town
of a thousand souls, but I won’t let you call this
the self-regarding theatre of lovely gesture
or conclude that I am talking about futility.
People walk past. People drive past.
Customers go in and out of the hardware,
and the softest breeze of an early June afternoon
brushes the heat of the sun from the protesters’
pale legs, from arms yet untanned after the chill of spring.