If There Was A God Above

In the autumn of eighteen sixty-four
Paul’s great grandfather
combed his long, dusty hair
removed the strands
and dropped them without thought
in the Arkansas river.

He leaned his shotgun against a tree.
He tied his horse’s reins to another.
His uniform, once grey,
faded, now, to a dusty butternut,
and had more patches
than original material.

He thought the careless Pins
foolish for letting him scout
to within sight of the Fort Gibson’s walls
bristling with cannon.

He thought how foolish
to let political blood lines split the five tribes
in a war of divided institutions
and headstrong ideas of right and wrong.

Paul’s great grandfather
thought of his abandoned Tahlequah home
where his brother’s tightly curled locks
were attached to a black silhouette
behind a glass and frame
if there was a god above.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


“Pins” is a reference to Pin Indians. This was a derogatory term for Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles of the Indian territories (modern Oklahoma) who sided with the Union forces during the civil war. Click for Oklahoma State Historical Society entry.