Under the Patronage

Paul thought the monarch migration
was all the world’s royals
meeting in a small French town
on the Mediterranean Sea.

He imagined their numbers were thinned
by the long flight
as predators along the way
picked off stragglers.

They are now refugees
from peasant revolts
whose strength in numbers
outweigh the monarch’s strength in coin.

Paul thought about
habitual income inequality
and how poorer readers
flocked to Karl Heinrich Marx.

He imagined wide spread distribution
of the The Communist Manifesto
among the cotton slaves
held in the southern United States

during the Gold Rush year
and how the bloody uprising
would pre-date John Brown
and spread through northern sweatshops.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


When we met, I exposed you to my niche
of Civil War studies
by reciting the Palmetto Sharpshooters unit history.

I had no idea you were from South Carolina
and had not listened to rock and roll
since the day the Beatles broke up.

To imagine you never heard of U2
or the Iron Brigade of the West
caused me to think we required a field trip

to Quebec City were we would be
on a more even footing—
each of us knowing next to nothing Canadian.

But you said you were
moving into a new apartment this weekend
and needed help moving furniture.

I carried seventeen long boxes marked bibles
and wondered if you were more in tune
with John Brown and Beecher’s Bibles than I credited you.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Flame Under an Iron Pot Heats Water

I am saddled with dreams.
Ridden like a horse.

The dreams line up
to form a misshapen narrative.

A novel written in codes
out of sequence.

Unable to sleep
due to sepia images

of John Brown at the gallows
in Charles Town Virginia

I wonder what part of my self
requires emancipation.

Or if my hand is the slaver’s
whip cracking hand

stroking the backs
on people who I claim to love.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney