Public Attention

I would not recognize anyone
whose lynching was preserved
in picture postcards.

I might spot a familiar face
in the raucous crowd.

I do hear mothers wailing
through a history
of dead sons.

We do not know the history
of disappeared women.

No one ever photographed rape
like lynching, then published it
for sale at local gas stations.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


I want to be myself.
I am too practiced at being someone other.
I am blessed with peripheral awareness
and becoming what others need in the moment.
I lie to myself with such sentiments.
I am blessed with fear, the vulnerable memory
of being verbally beaten out of myself too much when young.
I had grievously grieving parents to please for survival.
Such is a child’s perception of devouring sorrow.
I hope, one day, I may see myself in the mirror
not as a villain, but a hero in search of a story.
I lie to myself with dreams of dreaming such hero stories.
I borrow heroes from my favorite novels
and dress myself with their persona for a day or two.
None of those heroes slay the people who raped me
in the gravel alley outside my grade school.
Heroes do not slay past memories.
Heroes are not written to allay these painful memories.
The gravel tells me, Do not to throw stones.
The gravel does not wish to be the instrument of my vengeance.
I still hear the gravel’s voice, especially inside my glass house.
I set my unrequited vengeance upon the gravel a year later.
Our Lord God Trinity can pick my vengeance up if they so choose.
I have not viewed God as a man since the day I was raped.
I believe my female God Trinity will love me into myself.
She tells me I must take my sad life and mold it into a better one.
She tells me happiness is selfish, joy is communal.
I shudder several times not knowing what to do with this gospel.
I am the sum of my choices and memories.
I am too many irrational numbers.
I am the tool of smooth, flat, oval stones
that wish to visit the bottom of a placid lake
after several hops and skips across the water’s surface.

Copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Dianne and I debated whether to include this poem in the umflop blog or not. I think the quality of the poem is good, but the subject matter is very personal. We tried to measure the balance of revealing too much of myself compared to the artist’s task to speak for the community. To speak for those who have no voice.

Since you read the poem on this blog, you know what our final decision.

Over the years, I have learned that gaining acceptance of the past is better for me than gaining understanding. I will never understand why violence was committed against me, but I can accept that it was and lay that memory down into the past instead of carrying it around with me adversely affecting the present.