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

Mr. Hays

Mr. Hays taught remedial English.
That was Glenbard West high school.
He taught us to balance our checkbooks
before we had bank accounts.
He taught us to wash laundry properly
instead of deconstruct Melville’s Moby Dick.
He encouraged us to take cooking classes
so even as bachelors we would eat right.

He taught us other things to prepare us
for the real world of having only a high school diploma.
We never learned to write a haiku,
but we all had professional looking resumes.
I was the remedial oddball,
who went on to university to earn a higher degree.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Dianne pointed out that the word bachelors excludes girls. The remedial English class this poem refers to, my Junior year English class, was a dozen teen boys. No girls. The girls were smart enough or so diligent at homework that they remained in regular English classes.

As far as knowledge learned in high school that helped me in the real world, the stuff Mr. Hays taught us in remedial English and Algebra I & II are the things I found most useful in my adult life. Thanks Mr. Hays. Thanks Mr. Miller for the Algebra.

Reading A Book

Paul recommended I read
Moby Dick with my eyes closed.

He said he got the idea
from a Nick DePascal poem.

With eyes shut, I envisioned
a small New England whaling town.

My envisioning was in black and white.
My flip book images were not period accurate.

My imaginings were derivative woodcuts
from the Moby Dick I leafed through in high school.

My white whale
was a white whale.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney