Home Fries

In the intersection
outside of the crosswalk
two stray socks,
one gray with red strips,
one white with goldenrod toes,
and a small pair of overalls
printed with Winnie the Pooh
and other characters
from the Hundred Acre Wood
displayed a single set
of tread marks
as traffic grew thicker,
faster and deeper
than my desire
to tidy up the asphalt
as I crossed with the light
on my way for tea,
eggs over medium
and home fries.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


On 23 December this poem occurred on my 2.5 mile walk to the cafe that I use as my poetry office. On this walk, usually the same route each time, I regularly find clothes that are left behind on the sidewalk or in the street gutter or the crosswalk. It gives me the impression that getting one’s clothes safely to the laundromat and back home is not an easy chore. I hope it is not a case of a homeless person trying to keep track of everything they own in a shopping cart and losing part of it. That would make the loss of a few items a substantial loss.

When it comes to homelessness, I find I am more angry with Business over Government. During a period of record corporate profits the nation has one of its highest homeless populations. In my mind, because they have the money, those businesses should be hiring extra people so less folks are homeless. All of the major religions tell their followers to aid the poor. I understand there are places in California (LA and SF) where rents are so high that people working full time become homeless when a little adversity hits their lives.

I think many people forget that profit is not a goal or an end. It is a measure. It is an incomplete measure, because it does not take into account the quality of life of all the people who work in the business or interact with the business. Imagine if Google reduced its profit by 100 million dollars to employ an extra 20,000 people at a good wage. Google would still be profitable and a viable business and it would improve the lives of so many people. I believe conscientious investors would be accept the slightly lower dividend for a better country, city, or neighborhood.

I wonder how any of us would like an extra $100 of dividends if it came at the cost of 10,000 people being laid off. As an investor and a conscientious human what would that make me to profit from the pain of others? I do my best to invest responsibly on social and environmental issues.

All this thinking from two socks and a small pair of overalls outside a crosswalk on a busy street’s asphalt. Hmmmm.

Hey. Do the small things that make a difference today. You know: smile, say please and thank you, and et cetera.

Love & Light.


Reading A Book

Paul recommended I read
Moby Dick with my eyes closed.

He said he got the idea
from a Nick DePascal poem.

With eyes shut, I envisioned
a small New England whaling town.

My envisioning was in black and white.
My flip book images were not period accurate.

My imaginings were derivative woodcuts
from the Moby Dick I leafed through in high school.

My white whale
was a white whale.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


At a bar, Lori hears last call.
All night poetry echoed off the walls.
So many stories like her own.
Hell at the hearth stone.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Funny thing happened on the way to completing this poem. It started out as seven quatrains. It seems I used a lot of unnecessary words in the first draft that distilled down to these four lines. Yes, I like that metaphor. Distilled. And what we have left is a good stiff drink. Chartreuse is my choice. Green over gold.

Sometimes I am so in love with my own voice I over-write a poem. I just get carried away in spite of the adage: brevity is the soul of wit. I ponder the possibility that my start in poetry was in slam poetry and the fact points were awarded more generously to longer poems. Three minute poems since that was the frame work of the classic slam poem of the 1990s. So an unintended consequence of creating an artistic reward structure. Even if the point was poetry, not the points.

Love & Light.



There it is.
As plain as skin cancer.

Another Presidential
fiction is born.

Not like Athena
from Zeus’ forehead.

But a thumb pounding
Twitter screed.

Part of the never ending spew
of his black hole self absorption.

The news looks back along the coverage trajectory
and sees pitch black.

How easily the profit motive
drew them past the event horizon.

How oblivion became a luxury
and absence a blessing.

How our scarred feelings
fail to notice a subtle touch for attention.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Walking In Footsteps

Follow the Iron Brigade’s march
on July first.

They got a late start.
They finished their breakfast.
Drank their coffee.

We can stop any time you want.
We may flee Gettysburg’s ghosts if you wish.

Left. Right. Left. Right.
We continue forward
along the Emmitsburg Road shoulder.

In the drainage ditch
you find a black hat.
It is the Hardee style.
The Iron Brigade wore those
and were known to their foes as the Black Hats.

You choose to try the hat on.
Hats found unexpectedly
might be portals through time
to pivotal days.

Go ahead. Put it on.
It is about the time of day
the Sixth Wisconsin
charged the railroad cut.

Wouldn’t that be something.
To form up and charge.
To follow the nation’s flag forward in righteous cause.

Yeah. You are right. We’ll turn around.
Before that sheet of flame erupts
and a leaden maelstrom
thins our ranks.

Even in imagination this might be too much.
Standing on that ground. At the right time.
Our metal tested, spattered red and riven
before the call by Rufus Dawes
for the Second Mississippi to surrender.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I fear the title of this poem will link your brain to the song Walking in Your Footsteps by The Police on their Synchronicity album. If it had not before, it does now. So there. You have an earworm for the rest of the day.

I have walked the path mentioned in the poem. One of my habits when I visit a civil war battlefield is to study a unit, find the point where they entered the national park grounds, and walk where they walked. Advances and retreats. I do it to gain an appreciation from my feet for what those men did that day, since I am not allowed to fire a model 1861 Springfield rifle or point a saber forward and lead a charge.

Link to Wikipedia on the Railway cut.

Link to Wikipedia on the 6th Wisconsin Infantry.

Link to Hardee style hat.

If you have followed my poetry long enough, you have noted several poems that include the 6th Wisconsin and Rufus Dawes. They are a unit I have read several books about.

An adventure I would have liked to have done if I had started younger, is to walk Lewis & Clark’s footsteps on their expedition to the Pacific from St. Charles, MO to what is now Astoria, OR. My friend Mike Whitehead and I talked about doing it. It was never more than talk because of wives and families and civic/neighborhood responsibilities. It would be a great adventure. I think bicycling the Lewis & Clark historic route would be a grand adventure with a lifetime of stories from it.

When I drive across country and have no need for haste, I like to drive the rural highways and stop at every historical marker along the way. You learn such fascinating stuff about the USA. Also, you come across historical attractions that are not too far out of the way or do not impede your sense of time. You stop and learn something. Learning is what is fun about it.

As I get older and I feel my brain is nearing full, I am happy I have not lost my desire to learn. I am more picky about what I want to study and place in memory. This pickiness is a simple change of priorities as time goes by. I think it is important not to lose my sense of wonder. Nature still fills me with a sense of wonder. So I like to spend time in nature. (I like to sleep in a bed, so I do not do major excursions into nature anymore.)

Love and Light.


Last November

Thank you for your letter
hand written on a card
with a photo of a goldfinch on the front,
written in your signature sepia ink.

You wrote your letter
on three of the four possible sides.
You had a dot-dot-dot
over the credits and copyright information.

I expect there is a second card
in the postal system somewhere
with more of your sentences
and a few pithy sayings from Bartlett’s.

This leaves me guessing
if you continued with birds
or shifted to Hieronymus Bosch’s
Garden of Earthly Delights.

Or maybe you had a left over birthday card
with a little mouse holding colorful balloons
and you taped a stick of gum inside it
like you did last November.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney