I see him standing in his field,
rough hands wrapped round the handle of his hoe,
watching the army march down the Williamsburg Road.
He hears the fifers’ reel;
the Continentals’ drums beat a cadence foreign
to the rhythms of his Quaker life.
His thoughts turn quickly to the farm—
corn stacked in the crib,
tobacco hanging in the barn to cure,
sons and cattle in the safety of the woods.
On First Day he sits in the meetinghouse’s silence
listening to the cannons’ siege across the fields in Yorktown.
And, when the guns quiet, a world turned upside down.
In Williamsburg, eloquent speech on liberty gained,
freedom and the rights of men,
but there in Skimino plain speech and prayers
for freedoms that will not soon come.
In the meetinghouse clapboard and plain
he holds all in the light of peace,
and embraces a path at odds with the new America.
In Skimino I stand among the regrowth and the briars,
the southern pines and the shadowed light.
The meetinghouse is gone; the graves of Friends forgotten,
nameless underneath the road to Williamsburg, Yorktown,
and the fleet at Hampton Roads.
In this world tumbled down men still speak
of waging war and liberty
in the name of peace that will not soon come.
But here in Skimino,
in the solace of the shadowed light,
so many years after him,
I embrace his path of peace.