W. D. Ehrhart

In the Midst of the Peaceable Kingdom

                                                                                          George School
                                                                                                  (long ago, but still
                                                                                                  not long enough)

My memories of that place
are mostly anything but good.
An oxymoron: Quaker institution.
All the right—the righteous—words,
a piece of the Peaceable Kingdom,
but just another institution in the end:
hypocritical, duplicitous, all smiles.
“Speak truth to power,” but we don’t
mean us; we’re not the ones we mean.
Just eat the shit we feed you;
don’t complain, or call it what it is.

But one cold night in January,
snow began to fall. At two a.m.,
my wife and I got out of bed and dressed
and went outside and started walking;
walked and walked through foot-deep snow
through woods so still, so empty
we could almost think we were the last
two people in the whole wide world;
so quiet, when we stopped to listen,
we could hear the snowflakes
falling on the snowy forest floor.

W. D. Ehrhart’s newest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Co., 2019. McFarland will also re-issue his memoir, Busted: A Vietnam Veteran in Nixon’s America, in 2021.