The Sunday Poem: Kenneth P. Gurney... Hours After Sumter

There it was--that first wave of bravado without regard for the lives and deaths of thousands which would inevitably follow. The Civil War began with brave shouts and cannon fire 150 years ago. The cost of slavery as well as the cost of that war were also inevitable and is still being paid.
Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque. His work appears mostly on the web as he spends SASE and reading fee dollars on flowers for his lover. Visit his website for more information.


The great wrong, our original sin,
the wound that discolors our freedom claimed—

we will pay now with the stoney gaze
of men who blankly stare at the sky above

all to wield the axe that slices the fetters,
the bonds and shackles that hold a million men

unable to collect the reward for their long labor
in fields far from their continent without cold.

Alas, the dead we will tally, with numbers
far greater than those spouted by the glory seekers.

And how our hearts will tremble
when some once quiet town’s name is uttered,

where the trenches dug demand long rows of supine men
whose names remain unmarked on any wood or stone.

Oh, how I fear the widows’ tears; how they may flood
the land now hardened with patriotic fervor.

--Kenneth P. Gurney

Poetry submissions are welcome. Email

Views: 38

Comment by Margaret Randall on December 12, 2010 at 7:53am

Our land continues to be hardened with patriotic fervor...important to be reminded, in this fine poem, of a time when war still gripped our citizenry and its purpose was at least partially to redress a wrong that still powerfully affects us all. Today we are in a time of perpetual war, and according to most polls Afghanistan and Iraq are way down on the list of issues that should concern us. A lot of history in these well-crafted lines.Thank you, Ken.

Comment by Amanda Sutton on December 12, 2010 at 2:08pm

"we will pay now with the stoney gaze
of men who blankly stare at the sky above"

Gurney's lines remind me that one of the greatest evils of war (beyond senseless killing), is PTSD and other psychological ills that some veterans must cope with for a lifetime. Our society and government need to stop stigmatizing vets and offer them support in the form of acknowledgment, money, and healthcare.

Comment by Dee Cohen on December 13, 2010 at 6:34am

Hello Kenneth,

Thank you for this timely (as always) poem to help remind us of the ongoing struggles against marginalization of all kinds.

This is my favorite line:

when some once quiet town’s name is uttered

I think of all the places and lives that have been forever changed by events of history.


Comment by Rich Boucher on December 13, 2010 at 7:41am

Excellent work, Kenneth.

Comment by Georgia Santa-Maria on December 31, 2010 at 4:02am
Wow-thank you, Kenneth--you said it all.


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