Succumbing

In a wheelchair
at a rural intersection
with the only traffic light for miles
sits a battered Teddy Bear
propping up a cardboard sign:
Homeless War Vet.

Under the shade of trees
a man with prosthetic legs
appears to snooze
through the awfulness
after twenty-eight straight days
without a bed or shower.

The sycamore trees,
old as the Civil War,
mark a property boundary
in the county land records
that go back
to nineteen-eighteen
when his great grandfather
purchased the farm
from the bank
after its owners,
with no successors,
died of the influenza.

With no traffic
at the red light
children bound
out of a solitary car
with less than
one dollar in change
for the Teddy Bear.
But that does not
fill his vest pocket
or the income gap
during the pandemic.

So history repeats itself.
Obliquely.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Documentary

Last night I watched
a documentary
on Gettysburg
and I was surprised
how they dumbed it down
and left out large portions
of the battlefield conflict
to focus on individuals’
experiences.

Although these accounts
were interesting
and brought a human element
to the history,
no viewer could understand
the information
and misinformation
commanders made
their decisions by
or the battle as a whole.

Then I thought
maybe that was the point.
There is no understanding war
only the monotony
that precedes the maelstrom
and the constant heave
of the knife’s edge
that separates
courage from terror.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clover Leaf

With a finger pressed
in chiseled white letters,
Delphi rubs silence
from the stones lining Arlington,
washes once bellicose soldiers
with an old prayer recited,
hears the long roll of drums.
Her bare feet press the echo
of church bells into the ground
beyond the bent green grass
grown about the singular flower
of the old Second Corp.


Copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

This is another poem from my past as I regroup from a week of spare creativity. Tomorrow will have a new poem, recent poem.

Up From The Tidewater

I walk the sawgrass
adjacent to rounded
civil war earthworks
where a shore battery
endured a long bombardment
from the Union fleet
and with each slow step I take
I let my toes feel the soft ground
as if they can detect
shell casings embedded
in the sandy soil
and whether that ordnance
is expended
or remains live
after a century and a half.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Keepsake

The jacket in the attic, the cedar chest,
on top of dilapidated shoes
displays a hole with blood stains
that match up with
a once white, weather stained shirt.

Butternut—a gray dye faded from the sun
over the many marched miles.
No kepi with sky blue stripe.
Great grandfather’s unit
wore straw hats that summer, not pressed felt.

No old photo for frame or locket.
They were much too poor.
The rich man’s tool in war
with no slaves to lose.
Forty acres of bottom land to support seven.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney