This morning, an ordinary man in a suit
Knotted his tie neatly, under his bobbing Adam's apple
And talked to his wife, as she checked her briefcase for the notes she needed
To do a presentation.
Their two children bickered and giggled, as usual, at the breakfast table
While the proud ginger cat watched next door's dog defile the geraniums
and flicked her tail.
She had a long day of watching the enemy ahead of her
With the faint, good hope
Of salmon supper
This morning, the ordinary man in a suit drove to work
In a sleek car that purred more quietly than the cat, and he made good time.
His shoes shined brighter than the gentle April sun,
As he went up the steps to the office, taking them two at a time.
Even though he wasn't really in a hurry.
He asked his personal assistant how her sick father was doing, and read the messages she gave him.
Then he sat at his desk, moving pens and adjusting his blotter.
He glanced at the wall and the hands of the clock were open, so he had a little silence left,
Before the day began in earnest.
It was a quiet day.
He met with a client whose moustache seemed to permanently
bristle with barely concealed indignation.
He made a few calls. He ate a snickers.
His accountant came to the office to clear his throat and shuffle papers,
While he talked of numbers with the reverence of a poet,
And the enthusiasm of an engineer.
It seemed that this year the margin of profit was good and there were ways to make it better still.
For the man in the suit this was pleasing, but it was the accountant's eyes which glowed most
At the thought of all those extra digits he might get to organise, and capture in a spreadsheet.
After lunch and an afternoon of meetings, the working day was over, and it was time to drive back through darkening streets
To where his wife was waiting for a kiss
And the cat was still dreaming of salmon.
The ordinary man in a suit loosened his tie the second he was through the front door.
He wiped his feet on the mat and hung his jacket up.
After dinner he turned on the television and sat on the blue sofa
To watch the news, a beer in one hand.
He saw that the missiles his company made had been used to protect his country again.
That they had struck their target, with the obliterating accuracy that was a testament to the workmanship he demanded,
And they had cost the world one hundred human lives.
He felt a thrill of patriotism and the satisfaction of a job well done.
He didn't feel responsible in the way he would
If you had given him a sword and a line of people at the bus stop to take out.
At best, he would have reasoned, if you had asked him,
That he was just a small cog in a vast machine
And anyway, some other man in some other suit would have made them if he hadn't.
The man in the suit was not, by many measures, a bad person.
It was he who snook into the children's rooms when they lost teeth,
And exchanged each tooth for money.
It was he who had saved up when they were still poor,
To give his wife the wedding she had wanted,
And it was he who sometimes mowed their elderly neighbour's lawn in summer
While she fetched him lemonade.
The man no longer in the suit, turned out a light and shook the pillow til it felt good enough to rest against,
And he made me remember;
We are each a small cog in the vast machine, ourselves.
We contribute to injustices and wonders, every day.
Some of the ways we do so are out of our control
But many of them aren't.
We get to choose how easily we turn.
How much we stick.
How much we disrupt the smooth running of things we believe are wrong. We are not helpless. We have the power,
Like all cogs do,
To alter the machine