Pink Pearl

Paul did not remember
what he told Dora
of his gospel of terror
and that he
is merely a reflection
of the clouds
on the river’s surface.

He remembers
how he and Dora
flapped their arms
and laughed
until tears
squeezed out
of their eyes
under the cedar waxwings
in the hawthorn tree.

He thinks about
how the world looks
from the river bottom
eyes open looking up
through the
tannin curtain
at the passing clouds
and the blackbirds
in the cattails.

It explains
that look
he often wears
and how his logic
has this sense
of erasure
as the pebble
strikes the surface
and ripples
through the clouds.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Burned Out Wick

I can tell from looking in your eyes
you will skin me alive
if I keep secrets from you.

I think about all the ways
I am the target
of your paranoid marksmanship.

Of course there is shouting
when we use vodka to fuel
our lamps.

At least while you are drunk
your aim is poor
and I can run to the river.

And there I may dive in
to join the other surviving fish
with hooks cut from their mouths.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Manifestation

All the birds singing
in Paul’s breath
blur the love poems
as he reads
at open mic.

How they got there
has something to do
with swallowing miller moths
attracted to his porch light
at dusk.

At his last checkup
the doctor
placed a tongue depressor
in his mouth
for a better look at his tonsils

and saw
a lesser gold finch
poke its head
up his throat
and sweetly call tee-woo.

Paul notices
all the birds go silent
when he thinks
a sparrow hawk glides
on thermals about his head.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Crevasse

Paul clings
to that one photograph
of his daughter
in her mother’s arms
from that first day
and when he looks
at the faded colors
he can still hear
his daughter yawn
her one big intake
of breath
before that
heavy blue
emerged under
her skin
and he fell
into a crevasse
that opened
in the hospital
floor while
the code sounds
became too distant
to comprehend.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Flotsam

Paul wakes up
one morning
on an unfamiliar beach
with palm trees,
fiddler crabs
and a deflated
beach ball.
He rolls over
on the sand,
face up
to the sky
and asks
a hovering seagull
how his Chicago
car crash
turned into
a tropical shipwreck.
The waves
crash the shore
as the tide
turns inward
and a loud drip
as each wave
recedes into itself
drums the gulls’ calls
into mechanical
whirls and
monitoring beeps
while a shadowy
figure
places a cuff
about his arm
and pumps a ball.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hoist

The dead
who did not tell
every story
they meant to tell
drift about
murmuring
sounding like
the wind
passing
through leaves.
They hope
the thin strands
of their stories
enter ears.

Paul sits
under a tree
tilting his head
at different
angles until
he catches
the threads
of several stories
that he believes
work like tethers
and will lift him
into heaven
come the day
he dies.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Soot

Paul tears pages from magazines.
He collages his largest bedroom wall.
Floor to ceiling.

He adds nature to his sleep.
Greens. Luscious greens.
Tropical and alpine greens.

The collage transports
his dreams into nature,
into a better feeling.

During the day as a forest
outside of Yosemite burns,
the page on his wall of that forest

smolders, then bursts into flames
that remain confined
to the pictured trees.

Not enough smoke
to set off his smoke alarm.
Just enough to blacken his white wall.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Icarus

Icarus, you
should have flown
at night,
though night
has predators too.

I like to think
of you as a baby
reaching up,
always up,
wanting to be lifted
by your mother’s arms
into the sky.

And Selene,
the moon goddess,
called for you
to come to her
like she calls
for moths to rise.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sunglasses

Over my regular glasses
I wear my dad’s sunglasses
that I took from his crumpled dashboard.
I drive out to the rural intersection
where he thought the stop
was four-way but was two
and pulled out to cross
two lanes of traffic.

As I expected the county sheriffs
did not sweep up all the small
broken bits of his car
letting traffic’s tires
push them toward the shoulder.
I search the debris seeking
a good luck keepsake that hung
from his rearview mirror.

Wearing his sunglasses
I see back in time
to his error in perception
and glimpse the truck barreling
around the curve with bad timing
or perfect timing, if you believe
in predestination.

From the corner gas station,
I purchase a cherry popsicle
and break it in two
to share it with my dad.
Still wearing his sunglasses
I see him slide in next to me
take the offered popsicle
and we share it like when I was young.

I never found the keepsake
among the bits of debris.
I left the sunglasses
by the side of the road
adjacent to a popsicle stick
with a trail of cheery red liquid
slowly navigating the asphalt
into the intersection.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

But Never Did

My phone rings.
Spam Risk.

Which means it’s mom
calling from the other side

to talk about a photo
of me when I was young

and my rubber band fueled
propeller balsa wood airplanes.

Sometimes I answer
in an effort to extrapolate

the total number of subjects
she meant to speak with me in life.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney