We sought to liberate the slave
from the cruelness
of sun, field and lash

but did not consider
the eternal enmity
of former owners in defeat.

We could have swept
the Old Dominion state
clean into the ocean.

Cleared it
of plantation owners
and the white working class.

The radical Republicans
desired something
akin to that response.

Mr. Lincoln desired
a new testament ending
rather than an old one.

So we honored
the terms Grant delivered
and filled no more coffins.

But it was we
who suffered future retribution
for simply breathing free air.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Staying Alive

I never read about
a person dying
from reading Herman Melville.

A great many high school students
dawdled through New England life in Moby Dick.

A great many men died
fighting the American Civil War—
though more from disease than combat.

Grant would have been happy to have kept them alive
and not to have written his best selling memoir.

None of you have ever died
from reading a typo or misprint
in a newspaper or magazine—

even the nudie magazines
whose printed articles rarely interest their purchasers.

Think of all the lives saved
if King George the Third
opened Parliament up to the colonials.

But that would mean Hamilton
would never have been written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney