Paul shortcut through a field.
It was not planted yet.

He could not tell his diary
if it was a cornfield.

The farmer had spread manure.
So to Paul it was a cow-barn field.

He had cleaned several cow barns in his life
thus knew the smell.

His squishy steps failed to elicit taps
when he tap danced part of the field.

It was a large field
so the flies did not swarm in his path.

The field’s bouquet filled his nose
with life’s promise.

He spat regularly into the field
so he might leave a little bit of himself behind.

The field would add microscopic amounts
of his DNA to the corn.

He imagined some crows eating an ear of corn
and thinking my that tasted like Paul.

Paul knew if he fell he would laugh at himself
until his new manure-mud-clown face dried.

He arrived at a post at the edge of the field
with a help wanted sign. It read scarecrow.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Family Brief

My ancestors settled
on the glacier flattened lands
of central Illinois.

That was two hundred years ago.
Or eight generations.
I have photos only back to grandpa Frank.

In twenty-two years
the farm would be near
the startup town of Earlville.

Earlville was named after
Earlville New York
by an early settler.

According to the family history
not one family member participated
in the Black Hawk war.

My ancestors grew yellow corn
for two hundred years
and survived

all the storms
draughts and insects
that plague farmers.

Over the years
low crop prices forced
mission creep

upon each generation.
Grandpa Frank was also
an electrician.

My father grew up on the farm
and raised show ponies
to finance his university education.

The great depression
wiped out all his savings
along with most people’s savings.

He put himself through university
working as an electrician wiring a section
of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wrapped in Yellow Grains

My 1600s ancestors were farmers
who wanted to plow land
with their name on the title.

My three-times-great-grandfather
crossed the Atlantic
for upstate New York.

My great-great-grandfather
moved the family to Illinois
seven years before Lincoln.

My great-grandfather
was the last in the county
to purchase Mr. McCormick’s reaper.

My grandfather’s pickup
carried a star in the windshield
placed there by a thrown horseshoe.

My father was the first
to leave the farm for the city—
for a university education.

He returned to the farm regularly
but not to plow the land himself.
The farm village needed a dentist.

My father located his practice
in the city of his education—
which was Chicago.

My few visits to the farm in corn pollen season
twisted me into a bouquet of sneezes
and jaundiced my ancestral view of farm life.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Most of my life I stayed away from the family farm.
Whenever I visited the family put me to work.

This is why I, a magic marker salesman, know
how to milk a dairy cow by hand.

My family on the farm has heard of the Covid pandemic.
They think of it as the nineteen-eighteen influenza redo.

Three of the goats amble in and out of the house.
They like to lie down on the guest room floor when I nap.

Grandfather sustains a quarter acre of prairie.
It reminds him of what his grandfather plowed under.

When I visit I think of my stay as a prison sentence
for psych-patients learning calm from animals and sweat.

All the poems I write while visiting I collect into a folder.
A label on the folder says Memoir written in magic marker.

After each farm stay, I am a bit more callused on the hands.
This does not stop me from writing a thank you note.

I post the thank you note near midnight.
I do this so my friends do not see me appreciate my family.

This way I can complain about the sunflower
that stares in the window when I exit the shower naked.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Breaking Point

The smiling woman
petting the goat
looks exhausted
from working
the fields
with few tools
and being up
all night
to throw
to hit the fox
that enters
the chicken coop
between the eyes
and hear
the skull

copyright @ 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney