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


When I visit
the old farmstead
and the nearby town
I look for faces
that mirror mine.

More often I find
no resemblance
and I have to accept
that most of the line
relocated to Iowa
during the oh-eight recession.

That said, the banker
recognizes my father in me
and offers to buy me lunch
at the diner that once served
great depression soup lines
so I can fill him in
on what our family is up to
since the wind scattered us.

He points out a youth movement
in farming with technology
and how the old timers
couldn’t make ends meet
on family farms now too small
for efficiencies
and market fluctuations.

He makes arrangements
for me to meet the young man
who rents our acreage
and the adjoined family farms
where GPS navigation
did not turn the tractor around
for three straight miles.

Though this young man is new,
he walks us straight to the rows
where my dad’s ashes
were plowed into the black soil
twenty-eight years ago.

copyright © 2020 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