Giant Killers

Buddha sits on the Yankee’s bench.
He emits calm even though
the Pinstripes are down
eight to one in the seventh.

Buddha chews a big wad of gum.
He blows huge bubbles that pop
and cover his double chin.
He scrapes the gum back into his mouth.

What the players originally thought was a mantra
reveals itself with closer listening
to be a Yankee’s golden oldies playlist—
championship lineups, starting with their first in 1923.

Wally Shang at catcher.
Wally Pipp at first.
Aaron Ward at second.
Jumping Joe Dugan at third.
Everet “Deacon” Scott at short.
Long Bob Meusel in left.
Whitey Witt in center.
Babe Ruth in right.

With a pitching staff of Bullet Joe Bush.
Waite “Schoolboy” Hoyt.
Herb “The Knight” Pennock.
Sailor Bob Shawkey.
Carl Mays.
and “Sad Sam the cemetery man” Jones.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


I do not know why or how my mind pumped out a poem about the Yankees, when I am a Cubs and Brewers fan. Oh well. I tip my cap to the poetry muses for causing such a writing.

Kings Canyon

When Annie discovered heaven
was harps and angelic choirs
without baseball or dogs
she changed her religion
to one focused on reincarnation.

She treated pastors
like used car salesmen
trying to get her to purchase
a pretty junker
she knew she did not want.

She always liked the Sunday bells
that called everyone together—
community over congregation
and the disturbed admonitions
of the black-robed men.

Summer pilgrimages
took her to national parks
where she turned Baptist
and immersed herself
in natural beauty.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

April First

Paul receives an invitation to a dinner party.
It includes an inkjet print photo of him.
In the image his body is small on a cool beach empty of volleyball.
His body is circled in red marker.
The red wicked into a slight bleed on the porous fibers.
Hand written in blue ballpoint are the words You will enjoy the party.
Printed in fourteen point Times Roman is Please RSVP.

He knows what RSVP means in the modern vernacular.
But not what the letters stand for.
He types it into a search engine.
It is French. Répondez s’il vous plaît.
Respond, if you please.
What if he does not please?
What if he prefers to watch Home Alone on the telly?
It would be the seventeenth time.
It is recorded so he can zip through commercials.

Paul digs the envelope out of the recycling.
He should have tossed it in the shredder pile of papers.
It has no return address.
He examines the invitation front and back.
There is no time, date or address.
He decides the invitation is a frenemy messing with him.
The hand written words are masculine lines.
It is probably Dave’s boyfriend.
Dave’s birthday is two weeks from Tuesday—tomorrow.

He should go out and purchase Dave a birthday card.
Not right now. Later. Tomorrow afternoon.
Paul and Dave have been friends since grade school.
They have not spoken in person for five years.
It has nothing to do with Dave’s boyfriend.
It has a little to do with Dave being gay.
They run in different circles.
Paul runs in squares.
Dave does not like square people.

Paul sets the invitation in the recycling.
He looks again at the photo of him on the beach.
He wears his leather jacket and red kepi.
That was late spring of this year.
Opening day at the ballpark and he did not have tickets.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


I don’t have
to say anymore
so I rehash
old issues
kicking up
settled dust.

My arms
muscle memory
to throw
different pitches
but not
the muscle
to make
the ball
so it sneaks
past the bat.

My ears
are made
to receive
friendly voices
but the
drum head
is loose
with no tool
to tighten it
over the frame.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Life Line

Paul looks at his hands
and feels they are the wrong hands.

Someone else’s hands he found
like lost gloves on the roadside.

These hands have more knowledge of natural rope
and how to bulldog a steer then tie it up.

They have aches where he has never ached
and two fingers at unnatural angles.

Even though these hands feel like someone else’s hands
they accept Paul’s blood pumped by his heart.

Their skin is dry all over and cracked in places
with calluses he does not remember earning.

They do not know how to grip a baseball
to throw a knuckle curve.

These hands instantly ball into a fist
every time they hear the word Nigger

ready to do violence to whoever spoke so foolishly—
in a darkened alley or out in the open if necessary.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

post script

Happy New Year. My wish for you is that you have the persistence to turn your New Year’s resolutions into reality. May you see the wonder of this world daily.


When I was small children—
a small child—
I filled my hands with fallen leaves.
Nine in number.
One for each position on the ball field.

I used river smooth stones
to represent the other team.
Fifteen of them.

They needed subs during the game.

Four round magnets
taken from the refrigerator
represented the bases.

I used a crooked stick to measure
the base paths
but never got the diamond shape
to have ninety-degree angles.

The air in the back yard was not quite right
for my pretend stadium
with the rot of the compost pile
seeping out from the covering dirt.

So I set up in the side yard under the maple.

I was all twenty-four players
and two coaches—
one of which picked up a red phone
to call the bullpen.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

The Likes of Moonlight Graham

A row of silent
baseball cards
placed face up
looked at the ceiling
from a table
where they were sorted

It was a special collection
of baseball players
with only one stat-line
in the baseball encyclopedia.

Unknown to most people—
even those who study
baseball history.
Some with only one
plate appearance.
Others with less than
an inning pitched.

They all made
the Majors


so it was impossible
to consider them
losers or failures
or unaccomplished.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


When I was a young poet of no consequence
I never imagined I would grow to be an old poet
of no consequence.

The fault is all mine.

I refused to join the academic assembly line
that insures poets have teaching jobs
so they do not starve to death.

Graphic artist was my day job.

I did not have tuition in my bank account
or a desire to take on student loans
to devastate my future bank account.

Can the term outsider be paired with poet?

I did gain consequence as an editor of anthologies.
Poets (at least) pretend to love editors
who may or may not publish their poetry.

It was a state-wide anthology not national.

Also I gained consequence as an emcee
of open mics with featured readers
and I paid the featured reader for reading their poetry.

Very few venues pay poets to read.

More people might have attended
the open mic I hosted if I hosted it
in a bar instead of a bookshop.

Beer is not necessary for hearing poetry.

When I was a young poet of no consequence
I thought I might meet other poets
who liked baseball and catch a game together.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


I take a baseball and toss it as high as I can.
My toss fails to puncture a cloud.

My hands fail to catch the ball when it returns to earth.
The ball’s white hide is now grass-stained.

I determine to practice until a throw punctures a cloud.
I require a great deal of practice.

A crowd gathers to watch my tosses.
No one interferes and some cheer me on.

The cheers apply to good tosses.
Ones that come really close to the clouds.

The crowd enlarges and people at the outer edge
are not quite sure why they are here.

Nor can they see me toss the ball
even though they do see the ball go up and up and up.

The fringe of the crowd starts drumming and dancing
which diverts part of my crowd to become their crowd.

Other parts of the fringe play music on instruments
while others startup rope-skipping competitions.

So the crowd’s attention is now split seven ways to Sunday
but it is Tuesday and the saying fails.

On my eleventy-twenty-third toss I hit a cloud
but do not puncture it as planned.

I think the cloud took pity on my tiring arm
and lowered itself.

Though it may have wanted a closer look
at the drummers, dancers, rope-skippers, and crowd.

The cloud rains just a little. Not much.
But enough to dampen a square inch of each shirt in the crowd.

We continued until it is nearly suppertime
when everyone disperses.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney