Clover Leaf

With a finger pressed
in chiseled white letters,
Delphi rubs silence
from the stones lining Arlington,
washes once bellicose soldiers
with an old prayer recited,
hears the long roll of drums.
Her bare feet press the echo
of church bells into the ground
beyond the bent green grass
grown about the singular flower
of the old Second Corp.

Copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


This is another poem from my past as I regroup from a week of spare creativity. Tomorrow will have a new poem, recent poem.

If There Was A God Above

In the autumn of eighteen sixty-four
Paul’s great grandfather
combed his long, dusty hair
removed the strands
and dropped them without thought
in the Arkansas river.

He leaned his shotgun against a tree.
He tied his horse’s reins to another.
His uniform, once grey,
faded, now, to a dusty butternut,
and had more patches
than original material.

He thought the careless Pins
foolish for letting him scout
to within sight of the Fort Gibson’s walls
bristling with cannon.

He thought how foolish
to let political blood lines split the five tribes
in a war of divided institutions
and headstrong ideas of right and wrong.

Paul’s great grandfather
thought of his abandoned Tahlequah home
where his brother’s tightly curled locks
were attached to a black silhouette
behind a glass and frame
if there was a god above.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


“Pins” is a reference to Pin Indians. This was a derogatory term for Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles of the Indian territories (modern Oklahoma) who sided with the Union forces during the civil war. Click for Oklahoma State Historical Society entry.


In the American Civil War
during battle
a soldier fired his musket into the air
far above the enemy line.
Thou shalt not kill,
he quoted,
when his captain
ordered him
to lower his aim.

After the battle,
his captain
summoned him,
asked him why
he volunteered
at the first call.
Because my brother
signed the muster sheet
and I could not
let him go to war

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


In the early years of the American Civil War this scene took place more often than most people realize. There were many men on both sides trying to resolve their sense of duty to country with their sense of duty to God. This resolution was influenced by each man’s sense of duty to family. These our three sets of powerful feelings / emotions / oaths that each man had to prioritize and resolve how he was going to act during combat.

Imagine the inner conflict during a fire fight, when you feel you must fire your rifle and stand by your brother, but feel more strongly that killing, even in war, is murder and against God’s will. It takes a type of courage not usually discussed in books to stand in the line of battle and receive fire from an enemy trying to kill you, while you are doing your best not to kill them. At the same time you are trying to fulfill all the other obligations of manhood and duty so not to be thought a coward by your company.

Two interesting books are For Cause And Comrade, by McPherson. This book explores the motives for fighting in the civil war by the soldiers who volunteered 1861 to the end of 1862. Fighting Means Killing, Steplyk is a study of the effect of the war on the men who prosecuted it and how they reacted to the extreme stress of battle.

Albuquerque’s balloon fiesta starts its second week today. Once the sun rises a bit, the sky will be dotted with up to 250 balloons. That assumes the weather allows. High winds cancel lift off.

Love & Light