W. D. Ehrhart
In the Midst of the Peaceable Kingdom
(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.