I am not Religious

My idea of God
does not fit in a church.

I visited great European cathedrals
to view the artwork in the windows
statuary and architecture

not the reliquaries
and saintly crypts.

Churches do fit
within my idea of God.

Though not as well as forests
or mountain meadows.

I once started a count
of the everyday saints I met
as I traveled these United States.

Six full legal pads
and a box of pencils
sharpened to nubs
and I was only one week
into the adventure.

My idea of God
fills the void between protons
neutrons and electrons.
The galactic distances between molecules.

Something in the weak and strong forces.

Something that remains
gracefully and elegantly
out of my grasp.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bronze

The only way to get me
to sit through Sunday church
is for me to write myself into a story
where I sit on an old walnut pew
with red velvet cushions
and hymnals sleeved on the back
of the pew ahead of me.

And the drone of the preacher’s voice
is more like bees entering
and exiting the hive
so I can believe something sweet
will come of all this
instead of the preacher’s fire
and choking brimstone fumes
as if his finger wagged
the whole congregation
into old testament supplication.

But there I would sit
patient with poems in a binder
until the benediction
fell upon stirring feet
ready for the recessional.
And I would make my way
to the roof top
among the pigeons
and read aloud
while the bell stood firm
in its immobility
the clapper like a tongue
that lost its sway.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Stealth Mode

You are
the twenty-seventh
coming of the Christ.

No one prophesied it.
Unlooked for
you quietly do good.

You learned your lesson
the first time
and do not antagonize

the church into seeking
a political remedy
for your anti-establishment leanings.

You wish to be
under social media’s radar
not particularly desiring

the world to appreciate reincarnation
or that there are
more than second chances.

This go-round
you present yourself
as non-binary

but continue to live and teach
the Golden Rule
and its platinum variations.

I am saddened that something happens
each time you turn thirty-three.
A car accident.

A drive-by shooting.
Some cross or another
to come down from.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Patina

Paul spent the night
collecting the extra moonbeams
that fell to the ground.

He placed them in a cedar box
with two orcas carved in relief
upon the lid.

His plan was next morning
to braid the moonbeams
into Dora’s hair

so other might see
that loving glow he sees
when his eyes rest on her.

Paul overslept due to his late night
and Dora was out
before he woke

because it was a day of too many shadows
and the bronze bell’s call to church
rang a little bit hollow.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bells

Some bells say,
Time to come to church,

while other say,
Time for your next class.

Some bells tell time
and tell you nothing else.

Other sound an alarm.
Others peal victory.

One said, Liberty!
but it rings no more.

The Carol of the Bells
is Paul’s favorite.

All that hand-ringing
so appropriate.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Back Order

Teddy bear window display
halts three gossips
while the red traffic light matches nails, lipstick & hats.

In the corner cafe
a man sits sideways at window bar
his sunburnt neck fringed with gray curls.

Across the street a church
projects the Virgin of Guadalupe
upon its five story warehouse facade.

The Virgin stands unaware of crosswalks
and people, eyes down,
unsure which serpents need crushing.

The Sunday bells recording
electronically rings folks into the plain brick vestibule
and onto folding chairs, while the man

wears a newspaper face mask
and fetches from around the headline margins
his tea cup from the table for sipping.

The three gossips
pick it up as the light changes
and they flow with the crowd

toward manufactured sanctuary, atonement
and redemption for five dollars
dropped in the collection plate.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shelter Receives No One After Five

We stood outside
the First Church of Christ.

It was one of six by that name
in the city.

We wanted sanctuary.
Our pandemic eviction was complete.

No one was home in the church
after dark—tale end of twilight, really.

Our boys and girls
played ring around the rosary—

a game they just made up
while clicking their tongues.

One of the boys argued this building
was the house of God

and God should let us in
to stay dry from the approaching storm.

One of our girls argued
God dwells in Heaven with the angels

and Heaven is in outer space.
She could not name the nearest star.

When the rain started,
one of our girls suggested

Fairies should kidnap all the children
away from us.

The youngest boy started crying.
He suffers from night terrors

and the night closed in
all around him, claws exposed.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Benefaction

One dawn I crawled
out from under the pews
and replaced the book
of common prayer
I used as a pillow.

On the cross
the Christ
seemed to be asleep,
so I tiptoed
not wishing to wake him
and jar him out of sorts
an hour before
the Sunday faithful
pinned their woes
to his flesh.

In the vestibule
a stack of polished oaken
collection plates
awaited the touch
of congregant hands
and the weight of money
as a secondary relief
from sin.

I seeded the top plate
with a dollar
on my way out.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Saint Christopher

I remember an old church
carved out of the back of a cave.

I am sure I was not supposed
to discover the practitioners’ secret.

But it rained too violently
when I was bicycling

and serendipity brought me
to the cave entrance.

It was the lingering incense
that emboldened me

past my fear of inclosed spaces
and that the earth desired to swallow me.

After a tight squeeze going upward
a dry gallery opened

with signs of the cross
and a crude alter of cut stone.

A bronze censer with its lid off
contained thick ashen residue.

A silver plate held dried out bread crumbs.
A crystal chalice wore smudged finger prints.

The walls exhibited red pigmented hand prints
and stick-figure stations of the cross.

I left my travelers medallion on the alter
as a sign and offering.

Then I left the sanctuary, the cave,
to re-entered the waning storm.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

Although I have bicycled over 30k miles in my life and had my progress halted by severe storms on occasion, I have never found a cave to wait out the storm. So this poem is a fancy, a fiction to delight my imagination.