Stéphane Witzmann suggested that the kernel configuration be altered to specify a default keyboard.
So, after checking NOTES and the name of the keyboard map I want (us.dvorak), I changed my custom kernel configuration file (BOBKERN) so that it now contains a section exactly like this:
# atkbdc0 controls both the keyboard and the PS/2 mouse device atkbdc # AT keyboard controller
device atkbd # AT keyboard options ATKBD_DFLT_KEYMAP makeoptions ATKBD_DFLT_KEYMAP=us.dvorak # use Dvorak key layout
Once this was built and installed (see the handbook for advice on custom kernel building), I booted into single user mode and, hallelujah, it is now in Dvorak layout by default.
Thanks to Stéphane.
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