Volume 30, Number 1

The greatest of these

We’ve sweated through three vigils this summer,
yet find ourselves back at the same square.
This time, because the slow poison
of watching men killed for being black 
murdered yet another black man.

It’s raining, almost enough to break the heat.
A pastor asks us to pray with strangers and
my lapsed Presbyterian skin itches for a closet.
We bow our heads, watch concrete sip drizzle,
and then, miraculously, we start to believe

we might escape unshriven. Until they appear:
Bruce wears ostrich-skin boots, pale Wranglers,
Nancy sports drawn-on brows, a look of wonder.
They’re good people. And though we admit we’re not
church-folk, they pray with, for, and (a little at), us.

Then, because he must, Bruce witnesses to us.
He covers us with their ticking, black umbrella,
which he likens to God. It’s a kindness; we thank them.
When we don’t give in, he sighs, Why are you here?
I may have my doubts about God, I say, but not love.

—John Miller