Aftermath

The photographer
repositioned the body
of the soldier
to make the composition
more dramatic.

He knew a distorted truth
sold better than
the naked truth
unless the naked truth
was a naked lady.
But that was not gentlemanly
or a proper subject.

The photographer
knew the truth
was already distorted
since burial parties
removed most of the bodies
to place them side by side
in long trenches
with no markers.

This poor fellow
was oddly preserved.
Not bloated or blue-skinned.
The photographer guessed
the man died during the night
after his late arrival—
died an agonizing two days
after the fighting ended
and the armies withdrew.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Honor System

Two rust laden wrought iron gargoyles flanked the gate.
They watched traffic pass on the street.
Cobwebs stranded flies between fence rods.
Paul entered cautiously.
Faded on top, a red ball remained motionless.
The knee high grass hopped with locusts.
A woman, white as a ghost, watched from the window.
Her limp hair even paler than her skin.

A photo series hung from a clothes line by wooden pins.
Black and white nineteen-forties film stars at leisure.
Often at home without make up.
The sign stated, Newly printed from original negatives.
On the table sat a locked metal box with a slot.
Hand scrawled in marker $50 each.
A box of white cotton gloves sat next to the cashbox.
Paul pulled on a pair to examine his childhood heroes.
He thought how easy it would be to pilfer the set.
A grating sound rounded upon him.
He glanced to see the gargoyles now looking in his direction.

Paul slid a greenback U.S. Grant in the slot.
He exited with John Wayne.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Point Where Two Curves Meet

I cannot see my grandparents.
I thought they would wait for me
on the cusp of the apocalypse.

Maybe they are there
but I do not recognize them.

Maybe I do not see them
because I never knew what they looked like.
There were no photographs.

I look around for Mom and Dad.
No bickering, so they are not around.

Maybe this darkness with an edge
is not the apocalypse after all.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

It was only after my parents’ death that I learned of a photo album that contained images of my grandparents. I was born after three of them had passed away. I knew my paternal grandfather briefly with only one clear memory of him sitting in a chair in our house at Christmas when I was five years old.

I do not know a way of measuring the effect of having or not having grandparents in your life, how their presences shapes you, and so on. Also I do not know how to measure how their loss affected my parents’ (or anyone’s parents’) attitudes and practices in raising children.

My guess is, through lack of knowing my grandparents, I failed to appreciate family history, the farm, the immigrant experience and how it shaped the family. Simply put, I never got to hear them tell the stories of their lives.

Dianne walked in and wants to hang out. And our brief conversation that initiated hanging out knocked the thoughts I was leading to out of my brain. So If any of you have a thought about the previous three paragraphs, please leave a comment.

Love & Light.

Kenneth