We’d Learn Later Her Husband Left

Though we were young and knew little,
we were good Quakers, and kind, taught
to work in quiet, and when we did talk,
to talk from below, so that each exchange
took place on a gentle slope, an inclined plane
or pulley, a simple machine, really,
like one of history’s many that has kept
the species ticking. So we ticked along
when Teacher Nancy turned her attention
to somewhere above our heads, a point beyond
us. She cried quietly, and the room shushed
with the soft whisper of safety scissors
that snipped to shape Noah’s felt animals.
I—more than most—loved her and wondered
as I cut whom I could hurt to stop her hurt,
sure that some violence God could endorse,
that mercy’s counterweight is just and swift.
That I, in my kindness, must deliver it.
Adam Houle holds a PhD from Texas Tech and teaches English at the South
Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. His work is forth-
coming or has recently appeared in
AGNI, Crab Orchard Review, Zone 3, and
elsewhere. He lives in Darlington, South Carolina