We sought to liberate the slave
from the cruelness
of sun, field and lash

but did not consider
the eternal enmity
of former owners in defeat.

We could have swept
the Old Dominion state
clean into the ocean.

Cleared it
of plantation owners
and the white working class.

The radical Republicans
desired something
akin to that response.

Mr. Lincoln desired
a new testament ending
rather than an old one.

So we honored
the terms Grant delivered
and filled no more coffins.

But it was we
who suffered future retribution
for simply breathing free air.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Around The Dog

Not tonight.
No he said she said.

No ping pong either.

No! Table tennis
is ping pong by another name.

Not fair of you to try to slip one by me.

I am tired and U. S. Grant’s migraine
infects my left hemisphere.

Yes. The brain. I feel blurry.

So now you think
we are a few hours from surrender.

Oh, how Appomattox of you.

This bedroom is not
Wilmer McLean’s parlor on April ninth.

Good night, dear.

Roll over and fall asleep
with your arm around the dog.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I like my dramas on the page.
I consume my life writing poetry.
I pinch the dead when they come to talk to me.
U. S. Grant chews cigars in my poetarium.
He admonishes me for calling him Sam.
His head sags when I mention Cold Harbor.
So many of the dead come to visit
I mix cultural references
while Grant blows smoke.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


On my November holiday, we stopped at Grant’s historic home in Galena, IL. The Illinois State Park service does a good job presenting the house with an informative tour. I had been there once before, maybe 30 years ago. It was nice to refresh my memory.

There are times when I write poems that it feels like the dead come to visit. I find it interesting how I can be both myself as interviewer and the dead visitor being questioned. Since I have studied so much of the Civil War, it is not surprising that figures from that time come to my poetarium.

Love & Light. Tree & Leaf.