We gather between the bank and the post office
with Old Glory rippling above us in the midday sun.
Holding our ground in the service of social justice
we stand every Friday as a nation of one.
We are women and men, the young and the old.
Quakers, agnostics, remorseful veterans, and anti-war activists,
we stand in blistering heat and mind-numbing cold.
We are you, America, bearing witness to the best in all of us.
The traffic rolls on through to somewhere else far from here
as the passers-by stop to share a moment of their lives.
We are all caught up in this web of hope, anguish, and fear
architects of our own futures, of our own cosmic designs.
So why do we stand here, you ask, staring into our eyes:
To abolish war? To make the world safe for our sons and daughters?
To bring peace back into all of our deepening lives?
All of that and even more, we reply, as sisters and brothers
living in these times of pain, war, sadness and deepening sorrow
caught up in these fleeting moments of joyous sidewalk solidarity —
we hope to bring peace into our hearts for today and for tomorrow
to carry us all forward deep into all of eternity
Rawlings is a Vietnam veteran and the author of four collections of poems: Orion Rising, A G.I. Portrait, In the Shadow of the Annamese Mountains, and A Baker’s Dozen (children’s poems). He is a founding member and former poet laureate of Veterans For Peace.