Old Photographs

Paul took a course on serenity
taught by the city’s last Holocaust survivor.

It had something to do with ironing
the wrinkles out of nightmares.

Sometimes the teacher was so serene
she became translucent.

Looking through her all Paul could see
was the green color of the blackboard

and calm and quiet
printed with yellow chalk.

Paul was better at practicing quiet.
Residual fears suffocated his words.

The final exam was to turn
a living color nightmare

into burnished sepia tones
then filing it in the archival past.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Show of Feathers

A flock of titmice
flit branch to branch
early in the day
before the three
neighborhood house cats
are let out to walk
the top of the cinder block wall
with the lattice fence
on their way
to the compost pile
compelled by their nature
to hunt fattened mice.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Recitation

It is nighttime.
I leave my body while it sleeps
and sit on the bed beside myself.

The digital clock’s red numbers display 12:53.
The motion sensor flips on an outside light.
The light comes through the blinds to brighten the walls.

There is the temptation to walk away from myself.
To go to the drawers and pack.
To take a trip.

My dreaming mind hikes Mount Wheeler under starlight.
My body remains in bed in Albuquerque.
My separate self is frozen in indecision.

I nod my head, consider the importance of remaining.
How I and this snoring body are a team.
Teamwork generates contentment.

I keep nodding.
The dream walk reaches Williams Lake.
I recite poems to night owls.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Groove and Tongue

The street narrows.
Its black surface absorbs all light.
A channel forms a center line that pulses.

The light flows east to west in the morning.
Gravity has no effect.
At high noon it pauses then reverses course.

Three black city rats exit the sewer.
They sprint through stalled traffic.
They stop to drink—turn luminescent blond.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mother and Dog

In all the years since my mother’s death
she has not once visited me in ghostly form.

I take this as a sign she is at peace
and the hereafter is more like a craft project than a poem.

I know I was not easy to raise.
My rascally brain did not appreciate syntax or logic.

She was like a window shade kept down
to keep a house plant from the sun.

I grew anyway—tall, thin and awkward.
It took befriending a dog for me to fill out in mind and body.

Time treated mother and me the same in spite of our differences.
Our similarities. Our love of mac & cheese.

When I picture her in my mind
I hold her hand when we cross the street.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

36 USCT

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

End of Town

Paul stops walking.
His feet halted
by a pink pacifier on the ground.

He stands in the middle of a grassy field.
The field is punctuated with wild flower blooms.
The trail is one body wide.

Paul scans three hundred and sixty sight lines.
No human beings are visible.
A wailing echo exists at the edge of his hearing.

He bends at the knee and waist.
He tilts his head closer to the pacifier.
It recites familiar lines.

A. A. Milne’s poem.
Disobedience.
J. J. M. M. W. G. Du. P….

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Window AC Unit for the Pigeons To Sit

Paul lives on the second floor
above a cafe in the middle of the block.

Half of the parking is taken up
by abandoned and stripped cars.

His door is between the two rooms
of the cafe below.

A used bookstore resides at the corner.
A natural medicine shop at the other corner.

The wooden steps creak when he ascends
and kaerc when he descends.

His bed room is above the cafe’s ovens.
Each morning he wakes to the smell of hot bread cooling.

His apartment has a single bare light
he never turns on.

At night street lights paint his walls and ceilings
through windows without curtains.

His bed is four yoga mats on the floor
and a natural canvas throw pillow.

A kettle sits on the stove.
Loose leaf tea is in a tin to be packed in a thimble.

His two dark brown thrift shop mugs
display a Roosevelt Elk and Olympic National Park.

Each mug is repaired with crack lines
in different locations.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wall Mounted Heat Pump Pigeon Roost

Lori’s two bedroom apartment
belongs to her since she owns the building.

It is fully furnished
with a cherry wood dining table

that never seats six
let alone eight with the extension.

Each Friday she purchases
a half dozen bagels.

She places lox on the bagels
with a smear of cream cheese.

Her bedroom is right out of a style magazine
that specializes in wood furniture.

Monday nights she hears the poetry
at the cafe’s open mic

from her bed above the performance.
She listens until the slam winner is announced.

Her other bedroom is two large screens
attached to mega-computers

and three bookcases of technical manuals
trouble shooting and coding books.

She secretly owns half the houses on the block
unaware she is the feared gentrifier.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Broken Mirror Reflects the Canyon Sun

Paul boards a car like a boat.

It means he hops a gap
and raises sails.

It means the wind powers
his vehicles.

Lori scatters virtues on the ground.

It means she walks
through floored pine needles.

It means there is nothing hidden
about her power.

Paul disrupts the shade.

It means his shadow glides across the court
as he soars for a slam dunk.

It means there was a mulberry tree
he once stripped of fruit.

Lori counts backward to her sixteenth birthday.

It means she put her foot down
on the gas pedal.

It means she sees the fractals
that spiral inward.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney