Slightest Vanity

He must have known
the ghost he ran into
by the peach orchard
not far from Shiloh church.

Paul opened a spectral door
at the road junction
adjacent to what is now called
the Bloody Pond.

He waved his hand
as if to usher them in
for a cup of coffee
with cream and sugar.

The three ghosts who came through
kept an ear cocked toward
the Tennessee river
and bolted about four p.m.

for Pittsburg Landing
no matter Paul’s remonstrations
that the war was more
than one hundred and fifty years over.

Paul dug his toe into the dirt
knowing any souvenir was long gone
but kept thinking about the one ghost
without a belt or suspenders

who periodically hiked up his pants
and pushed his belly out
as if that pressing action
would hold his sky blue pants in place.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Breaking Tradition

It is not right
to reap in April.
Why the harvest
of these young men?
Why the collection
of sawboned limbs?
These fields
confined by woods
feast upon the fallen.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


My mind drifted back to Shiloh. Some days, I hear the sound of the guns. Other days, the cries of the wounded. I trust it is my imagination and not a trick of time playing quantum games.

Above The Landing

I visited Shiloh—Place of Peace.
I visited to walk the killing fields.
The thick woods restricted my view.

Young men drunk with patriotism
attempted to solve an unruly problem.
Zealots from both sides spurred to bloodshed by lies.

Around the church, I located a fold in time
with the echo of uncoordinated musket fire
and a ripple of roaring shouts.

The ground brooded an old pain.
It reached up and grasped me as I walked
and stretched me back toward those April days.

My meandering led to the fruitless peach trees.
A rain lathered the boneyard ground.
Oh, to shave away the histories and hear the soldiers’ stories.

No red remained within the pond, within its banks.
Noon sun produced a leaf-filtered wash
upon the long silent Indian mounds.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


In the state of Tennessee, not too far from Corinth, Mississippi is the site of a battle from the American Civil War: Shiloh, also known as Pittsburg Landing. I have been there many times and walked the battlefield. In fact, it was the first battlefield I visited.

Shiloh National Military Park website.

One of the largest lies of the prewar months was that the Northern Republican party’s goal in 1861 was to free the blacks and force white women to marry black men. Lies like this helped fuel southern enlistment in the Confederate Army.

I bring this up because we are again in a time of outlandish lies. Unfortunately, the President of the USA is the person who spreads most of them. Fox News shows does not help the circumstances much in this department either with their opinion pieces. Slant or bias is one thing and acceptable. Lies are another.

Our country has seen an uptick in violence in the past two years and I believe it is partially because of all the misinformation (lies) on the multitude of media platforms out there.

I realize it is not always easy to discern truth from non-truth in the modern world, but I hope you place effort into that practice. I hope you work to dispel any notion that would lead you to violence. Peaceful protest has been proven to be far more effective than violent protest and there is less to clean up afterward.

Love & Light