Unfound Millions

My diligent ancestors
built a farm out of the wilderness
back when central Illinois
was wilderness.

At the time there was no
nearby town
so they were not
on the first Illinois maps.

My not-diligent ancestor
drank too much whiskey
every day of his life
and did foolish things while inebriated.

He once drove a team of horses
into the root cellar
mistaking its open doors
for horse barn.

All the horses died.
The fact he did not die that day
was a firm indication of the depth
of great grandmother’s Christian devotion.

If my not-diligent ancestor
had been born back
when there was no town nearby
whiskey would not have been available.

I never understood my diligent ancestors
where family history explained
that my not-diligent ancestor
always had money for whiskey and cigarettes.

Back in his life span
cigarette packs had baseball cards.
I searched musty boxes for days
seeking Honus Wagner and Cy Young.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Portraiture

My ability to determine
which secrets to keep
and which to expose
has something
to do with an oval
wooden frame
on the wall
that presents
cut locks of hair
from my ancestors.

Each lock is curled
like a nautilus spiral
above calligraphy script
that names the donor
and I hold the knowledge
that each lock
was taken from the head
as it rested in its casket
before public viewing
as was their custom.

In a box I possess
unmarked sepia photos
that are yellowed
at the card-stock edges
and I play a game
where I try to match
photo to name
by their hair.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney