Lark Hearted

A wedding cake pillow
tucked beneath
one participant
of a jump-the-broom
ceremony and celebration
speaks to the emptiness
of brown jugs.

No one wore white.

No rings exchanged.

Neighborly whispers
source her father’s
shotgun bias
and some bewitching
by the lark-hearted girl
over a month ago.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I use to be a painter.
Spent years studying the masters.
Spent years painting things that never existed.

I am a poet, now.
I embed my experience in typeface.
Structured surrealism in sentences.

Ambivalence is a rough file,
rubs skin raw
unless it’s used on callouses.

I created the file to cut through
the imprisoning bars of limited thought
and the boundaries of invisible boxes.

But here I sit.
Self-imposed blood stains
spot a white cotton shirt.

All because attention’s price tag
was a bit too high
and the opportunity costs too great.

I mean, I meant to go to the rally
to free children held at the border,
but…but…I lost track of time.

I mean, I was in a tanka
with crows feet and hollow bird cages
and Death at an easel, painting a landscape.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Gulls And Fishes

Dora drains the ocean
with her fountain pen
and a page thirsting for blue ink.

She thought to write an epic poem,
but her haiku contains so much more
with so much less.

Dora masters storms and strong tides,
but fails the calm
for her patron gulls and fishes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I have lived long enough
to see my own sin
come to life and stalk after me
like a hungry child
who has learned how to wail
with that piercing tone
that shivers the spine.

The problem is
I have become my own obstacle.
How brick wall of me.
How traffic light stuck on red.
How English Channel without a boat.

My faith is paint-by-numbers
and I never learned to apply color
within the lines
to form cohesive shapes.

I have no use for handclap gospels
on stadium-screen televisions
and preachers who join the Jetset
with pay-dirt hallelujahs.

My childhood is up for sale
in the guise of furious poetry
and self-published throw-aways
that I hand out as a street corner pontiff,
claiming my work a durable bridge
to cross over from a child’s daydream
to the work of real men.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bought & Sold

Breakneck ruminants
murmur the mummers’ tune.

Invisible maroons
cornered amid cabin annunciation.

Witnessing Africans
bob amidst Carolina white pines.

Wood Ducks remind us
of the forest incantation codex.

Fail-safe misery
loves the rusted vestiges of plantation tethers.

Star counting amphibians
purchase the old slave marketplace.

Unpredictable joy.
Mighty rally soars November’s voter count.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


At four in the morning
I slipped out of bed
since my farmer genes
programed my eyes
to snap open.

With slow
and careful motions
I pull the dresser drawer
and remove clothes
to wear.

I stand at the door
of your bedroom
and take in the innocence
of you under the covers
with one foot sticking out.

Two of my fingers pass a kiss
from my lips to your cheek
and I turn to go
even though we sold off
the dairy cows last year.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


On the third day
of my cut hand
bleeding through
the butterflies and bandages
I gave in to the notion
of doctors and stitches
and made a phone call
for an appointment
only to learn
there are no appointments
available for three full months
and without insurance
I must pay
five hundred dollars up front
with the caveat
that if it is a real emergency
I should go straight
to the emergency room
where they will bill me
at a future date
but that will not make it
any more affordable
so I plan to visit
the hardware store
for some Super Glue
after a memory-jog
replays Vietnam War medics
used it as a stop-gap
to get the wounded
to the field hospitals.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney