Paul was struck
by his lack of desire for the Abrahamic God
or any of the thousands of interpretations
of the Word perpetrated on the day.
He decided as a child
he had not failed Sunday school
but it failed him
as it tried to indoctrinate his behavior.
He admitted some of the stories
were good to know in a vague way
like knowing where one hill is
among thousands of nameless hills.
Paul pulled water up from the well.
He knew no matter
what he believed
the water would be the same.
copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney
I traveled these United States
to see the wonders of the continent
and harmlessly flirt with cafe waitresses.
As I traveled I learned the word united
holds looser connections
than the dictionary suggests.
We are ten thousand cultures
based on personal freedom of expression
and dodging responsibility.
The stripes of the flag
might as well represent bloody bandages
on our collective social wounds—
not the original thirteen colonies
steeped in racism, genocide
I found the practice of religion common.
But it was mostly Sunday only Christianity.
Not something lived through each breath.
I met a great deal of kindness
but I was a tourist. Not homeless or single
struggling to raise a child alone.
On clear nights I noticed
the stars shone down upon all of us
with the same intensity.
copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney
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