Protest in a Small Town
Trucks trailing flags belch by,
stuttering their war cries,
their reds and blues, stars and bars.
When we chant Say her name
those on the other side of the street
drown our voices
and they make sure we can see
their guns, their sources of power,
because they’re afraid
our handmade signs, our impotent
shouts for justice will somehow
destroy our sad little town.
As they cross the street,
and the police let them,
I try not to think
of how easily any one of us
could not make it home.
But who are we to complain?
they ask, and maybe they’re right.
I have no answer, so I look instead
at the planters of bubblegum petunias
that the city maintains each summer,
with such care, the watering trucks
making stops in the cool of the morning
to keep the fragile flowers alive,
even though it’s just for a season.
When our permit expires, and we leave,
the others stay behind, chatting with police,
passing water cups, and congratulating
themselves on keeping the town safe.
In church the next day, I’ll watch
as one of them makes his way to the altar
and kneels on the green carpet,
praying, I’m sure, for this nation he loves
more than anything
to be delivered to be saved.
or After Insurrection
Again, men get what they want with little fuss.
Write that fifty times in your best cursive.
Pretty snow gives way to ice,
lights go back into their boxes,
and wilted Poinsettia is thrown away.
Under the giant firs,
Blue Jays sprinkle the sidewalk
with peanut shells.
Most days I drive past one Fuck Biden banner,
a homemade sign that says Build the Wall,
and three thin blue line flags, defiant,
black and blue like a bruise or a body.
I take up a collection for reason’s sake.
The plate comes back nearly empty.
Thousands of miles away, at Big Springs
the rainbow trout beneath the bridge
stay put for good reason
and I wonder how they are doing,
if they are being fed, if steam is lifting
off the river between its powdered banks.
I’m sorry you’ve heard that, someone tells me.
For consolation, I crinkle the library book’s loose laminate
like I did as a child, inhale its slight sour stink.
Natalie Homer’s recent poetry has been published in Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, Four Way Review, Ruminate, Sou’wester, and others. She received an MFA from West Virginia University and lives in southwestern Pennsylvania. Her first collection, Under the Broom Tree, is forthcoming from Autumn House Press.