The Highroad Shrine
by Ruth Valentine
Permit me, this morning, the luxury of despair.
The ice has vanished:
no skidding cars screeching to take the corner,
child in the back crying. No old woman
losing her footing beside the pavement rowan,
brushing snow and shame from her coat. The sky is mottled.
Crocuses, yellow and mauve, where the snow's melted.
Still, I insist.
Snowdrops and crocuses are not enough,
nor the men in hi-viz emptying grey bins
into the back of a lorry to absolve us,
not even this girl with a scooter and long bright hair.
I thought there was hope.
I thought that men and women could lean together
and speak whatever was hidden so deep inside them
they themselves hadn't seen it till that moment,
like a farmer ploughing up his stony field
turning up brooches, muddy gold and garnet.
But still there are women queuing for a bag
of tinned food and nappies. Still someone makes this happen.
And I am old, and tired of shouting change,
tired of passing yet another shrine
of supermarket carnations, already wilted,
though their plastic wrappings will last for centuries.