In the Midst of the Peaceable Kingdom

by W. D. Ehrhart

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.