Balk Tackwards

In school my teachers
confused slow and dyslexic.

Dyslexia was little known
among the educated back then.

The rearrangement of words
has been both a hindrance and a boon.

The hindrance was readily evident
with corporal punishment dispensed

at my perceived lack of progress
with my early ABCs.

The boon came through art and poetry
and the discovery of Magritte

that gave my unintentional juxtapositions
value and beauty.

For a day at University
my mind switched the first letters

of every word in spoken sentences
amusing my fellow students

who said I was weird
for practicing this parlor trick.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wing Flap of a Glass Butterfly

Instead of firing his AR-fifteen seventy-two times
the gunman cracked the school like an egg.

The brick shell fragmented leaving gaps
with views of the cornfield for the students inside.

Somehow the gunman placed on the ground
the only patch of snow available in Iowa that July.

The gunman held off the arriving police
until all the children could escape the tyranny of syntax

the mnemonic repetition of times tables
and a gym class that refused double dutch jump ropes.

Crows flew into multiple houses and gathered up
all the dropped nail clippings and shed hair.

Down the road in an abandoned barn flaking red paint
Billy kissed Jenny for the first time.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

School Bus Zone

Thirty small children
in blue wool coats
rank and file
march into school
first day
of September
post Labor Day
heads full
of Summer’s last
while leaves
remain green
before the change
as if orange
should be a color
that announces
school’s resumption
as if orange
the construction zone
for building young minds.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lichen Crusted Stones

At seven years old
I imagined
the Bad Behavior Cemetery
was where
the school principal
buried all the wicked kids
he hit too hard
with his wooden paddle.

I placed it next to
the post office
where parents
sent postcards
and letters
to their lost children
who waited out purgatory
for judgement day.

Early All Halos day,
after refusing
to collect candy
I snuck in there
to search
for my brother’s
since my mother
did not know
where he was buried
and I wanted
to see it.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In The Running

I hate reading.
How the letters keep changing places.
How some words move, then say, Boo!

I love math.
When sixteen refuses to be sixty-one.
When divided-by retains its dots.

I color outside the lines.
My cat drawing has bat wings to fly.
My family drawing is a headstone in the rain.

School brands me Stupid.
A red-hot iron word applied daily,
by twenty-three classmates’ tongues.

Though I fail to outrun ridicule,
I win every footrace at recess.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney