When cotton was king
a people was enslaved and declared subhuman.
When corn was king
the McCormick reaper freed a million men
to serve in the Armies of the Potomac,
Cumberland and Tennessee.
Southerners’ mental gymnastics
won all the the eighteen-sixty Olympic medals.
Hypocrisy recognized by a few
caused them to teach their slaves to read and write
for the importance to know the gospels,
to come to know Jesus and salvation.
Do not dismiss the bravery of this act.
In most southern states that was a capital offense.
Before the black man was brought to the Americas,
the red man was enslaved and worked to death.
Columbus promised Isabella and Ferdinand
boat loads of New World riches,
but found only one valuable commodity
in abundance to enrich Spain.
No one heeded the Pope
when he spoke out against this practice.
How shabby our collective Christianity.
How spartan our application of the golden rule.
copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney
Poetic license allows the Olympic medal to be awarded in 1860, when the modern Olympics did not start until 1896.
Documentation of the enslavement of Native Americans is in the book The Other Slavery, by Andrés Reséndez.
I raise my right hand.
My left hand rests upon a pine bough
that will be pulped soon and turned into bible pages.
No swearing in takes place.
No cussing out takes place either.
This testament has something to do
with the many faces of Jesus.
I know there was only one Christ.
But so many people wrote the gospels:
Canonical, Gnostic, Jewish-Christian, Infancy,
reconstructed, fragmentary and lost,
from the first Matthew to last century’s Gabriele Wittek.
More gospels than I have fingers and toes to count.
Fewer gospels than sparrows & finches at my bird feeder.
I recall our last meeting—the Christ and myself.
A cafe with a Middle Earth motif.
I found her outside the front door
with a whimsical cardboard sign
made with a carbon-6 molecule drawing
requesting organic dietary supplements.
I ordered green chile cheeseburgers
and lemonades for us both.
She invited me to leave my body.
But I love Albuquerque, the beauty of its faults
and messy racial-cultural issues,
and refused to go.
The Christian inquisition
before which I testify
wishes proof of the girl’s divinity,
but I have nothing more to share
than her cardboard sign
with its black block lettering.
I mean, I just knew she was the Christ.
I just knew she needed help
so I declared her the Christ
to make it easier
to liberate twenties
from my wallet
beyond the cost of lunch.
copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney