Peanuts & Cracker Jack

Paul caught a fly ball.
He caught it by a mountain stream.
He assumed is was a foul ball.

He looked around
but no baseball field was in sight.
No ball court or other athletic facility was in sight either.

Paul pocketed the ball
since there were no visible ballplayers
to throw the ball back to.

For a moment he thought
he might be a character in a Kinsella baseball story
but this was New Mexico not Iowa.

He thought God might being playing catch with him.
Or the disembodied voice from Field of Dreams.
To have a catch, he corrected himself.

Paul took the ball out of his pocket
and tossed it as high as he could.
The ball did not reach the low clouds.

It did return to earth a few feet away.
Paul stumbled on a rock
trying to catch it again.

He fell and bumped his head on a different rock
which refused to take responsibility
for Paul’s hearing Take Me Out To The Ball Game.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


You cannot see
from this poem
that I am thinking
in italics.

My font choice
is my first falsehood of the day.

When you asked
How did you sleep?
Understanding in modern society
that such questions
do not seek an honest answer
I respond with a monotone, Fine.

A Second lie.

So it goes through the day.
A few bold face lies
but half-truths or subversions mostly
seeking advantage or conflict avoidance.

All in the convention
of ghosts emerging from a cornfield
and materializing into ballplayers—
like in the postcard from Dyersville, Iowa
push-pinned to the wall
above my writing desk.

I like to think my life has a moral
guided by an unseen hand—voice.
Build it and he will come.
Ease his pain.
Go the distance.

But baseball taught me
to steal signs and second
and if I am not cheating
I am not really trying hard enough
to win.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


“If you build it, he will come,” the voice spoke to Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner). We the audience heard it. In time Ray’s wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), heard the voice. So does the skeptical, world-weary writer Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones). Even though Ray’s obsession with the voice’s message causes hardships, Ray chooses to follow the voice’s directives as he figures out each step: 1) If you build it, he will come; 2) Ease his pain; 3) Go the Distance. By the end of the movie Field of Dreams it works out pretty well for Ray. He is able to make peace with himself, his father’s ghost and sets up his family pretty well to save the farm and baseball field.

I have heard a voice most of my life. I hear it behind my right ear, inside my head. The voice speaks with a manner and “sound” that is definitely not my thinking-voice or consciousness. It shows up rarely now, but from 1990 to about 2005 it was a daily experience. Some days the voice held a regular discourse on a subject like hearing a college professor rattle on and on, lecturing a class you never signed up for. Other days the voice wrote some of my most popular poems. It never gave me dangerous or bad advice. It often confirms feelings—like it is time to move to a new location. The worst thing the voice ever suggested I do was bet on the Cardinals in a playoff game against the Cubs—a sacrilegious act that I could not commit.

For years I told no one about hearing a voice. I saw on TV how voice hearing got you labeled as crazy. TV people gave the voice-hearing person wide berth like they had an infectious disease. Even cartoons made fun of it. The first person I told was my seventh therapist, who was the first therapist I found that I trusted.

I was four or five years old when the voice showed up. Since the trauma of the loss of a loved one is one of the causes of hearing voices and our family had just lost my brother, Richard, the timing makes sense.

Starting as an art student in the 1970s and working my way up to the present, I have met a fair number of people, mostly artists and poets, who have confided to me they hear a voice as well. They mentioned similar circumstance where the voice seems to be giving them good advice when they could decipher a meaning of the message. Sometimes the voice gives messages that are, like dreams, difficult to decipher. In the creative community it seems a significant percentage of people hear voices at least once in a long while. My experience-guess is one in eight people in the creative communities I have belonged to hear voices. Studies I have read state between 5% and 15% of the population hear voices.

In times of great stress or trauma my voice sounds off more often. To me it seems to be a deeper part of myself trying to communicate with my conscience self. Since the voice shows up behind my right ear, I believe it to be something inside the left hemisphere of my brain trying to communicate to me. The left hemisphere of the brain controls language, logic, critical thinking, reasoning, and mathematics—those things that fall away from me during times of high stress and/or trauma as emotions tend to take over my thought processes.

I believe my best poetry is written when the voice and I write in harmony, tandem. I mean to imply an experience when a creative piece simply appears as if you channeled it from the ether (or god), is a similar experience to my voice speaking in tandem and through my creativity.  I practice a stream-of-consciousness process of writing where I simply trust what comes up from the sub-conscious as it flows on to the page. (Later I edit the writing, because the voice in conjunction with my conscious effort does not spell very well or apply grammar rules in an acceptable manner.)

I wonder what it would have been like to live in ancient times when people who heard voices were proclaimed prophets and treated as holy. I sometimes picture pilgrims arriving at the Kenneth P. Gurney oracle-shrine in hopes my voice will speak to me what god whats them to do about their sheep herd, family disagreement or whether to marry a daughter off to the man she loves and the local rich guy’s son.

Causes: visit WebMD (US) or Mental Health Foundation (UK). There is also the Hearing Voices Network (Wikipedia entry)—I am NOT a member of HVN and know little about it except what I read on its webpages and wikipedia entry.

Over the years my voice behind my ear has served me well. There are four occasions when I heard the voice tell me to adjust my driving and those adjustments allowed me to avoid being in auto accidents a few breaths into the future. The voice reinforced my belief in the struggle forward during my most difficult years.

By the way, the Cardinals won that aforementioned playoff baseball game.

Love and Light