All Of These People

Who was it who suggested that the opposite of war
Is not so much peace as civilisation? He knew
Our assassinated Catholic greengrocer who died
At Christmas in the arms of our Methodist minister,
And our ice-cream man whose continuing requiem
Is the twenty-one flavours children have by heart.
Our cobbler mends shoes for everybody; our butcher
Blends into his best sausages leeks, garlic, honey;
Our cornershop sells everything from bread to kindling.
Who can bring peace to people who are not civilised?
All of these people, alive or dead, are civilised.

“All Of These People” from Collected Poems by Michael Longley. Copyright © 2007 by Michael Longley. Published by Wake Forest University Press. Used with permission of the poet.

This poem was originally read in the On Being episode “The Vitality of Ordinary Things.”