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.



God came for me.
This was her third try.
How charming.

No I am not a forest prince.
I am not a body broken
at the side of the road.

Let me heal you, she said.
A fire will reforge your spine
with hammer blows upon a turquoise anvil.

The apocalypse
is not the salting of Sodom and Gomorrah,
but a revealing.

And she kissed me.
With passion she drew into herself
all of my experiences.

You are a mass grave, she said.
You are a cocked-headed magpie mid-solution.
You are a son of the world tree.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Earth Shattering

Dora drives west.
Interstate Forty out of Albuquerque.
Schrödinger’s cat sits in the passenger seat.
Its superposition alters with each mile marker.
At tenths of miles posted by the highway department.

The setting moon eggs the sky.
On even tenths the cat stares out the windshield.
On odd tenths the cat sleeps curled.
Clouds steam Mount Taylor’s peak.
A gauge needle leans toward E.
Dora exits the highway.

Phillips Sixty-Six gas pump.
Stationary stability.
Ahead toward Grand Canyon destination.
Even: Dora’s departed daughter sits in the back seat.
Odd: a void inhabits the rear view mirror.
Emotions erupt Tsoodził to dust.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


This poem written after reading “The Test” by Jennifer Givhan from her book Landscape with Headless Mama.

Tsoodził is the Navajo name for Mount Taylor.

North Face

Paul cries.
His tears strike his palms like rolling thunder.
Black motes pock his life line.

The clouded sky echoes his sentiment.
Lightning crowns the mountains.
Electric thorns seeking Jesus.

Paul’s nostrils fill with ozone,
the crisp of a struck ponderosa,
the sap seared to carbon.

He gasps for air between sobs.
He claws the sky seeking purchase.
This letting go shreds him.

Four now. The disassociations.
The angels between sheets of rain.
The snow angel of his prostrate flailing.

He throws rocks and fists at his other selves.
A puncher’s chance.
A knockout blow.

Trauma drunk. He staggers to the tree line.
Dark limbs embrace warmer air.
Alders peel the thunder of its crash.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

On My Own

A woman becomes a jail cell.
Her hiked skirt is not a gateway metaphor.

She has nothing to do
with the disappearance of Saturn’s rings.

If only the bad guys grew tusks
to reveal their true natures.

I left upon realizing there is no lock,
no key to hold me in this five foot eight confinement.

I insist my incarceration
was a case of mistaken identity.

I am not really sure who I am
to this very day.

A woman wobbled
like a large bell at the first rope pull.

She prepares to ring out Freedom
or ring out Emergency.

I failed to blow out thirty-seven
of my sixty-two birthday candles.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


I was six foot five . Gravity is winning as I get older. I am a smidge under six foot four today. I never dated a woman who was five foot eight. In fact most of the women I dated in my life were five foot five or shorter. Once, I dated a six foot one woman, a blonde Valkyrie many years younger than myself just after my midlife crisis struck me. As you can guess, I did not go well. (It did not go badly either.)

I have never viewed dating or living with a partner as a jail cell. So I have no idea why that image popped up in this poem. Creativity is a difficult thing to place into definitions and parameters. Creativity is oft born of chaos, so expecting neat fitting boxes is silly. If I ever meet a woman who can make Saturn’s rings disappear I definitely wish to have coffee with her to see if any sparks take flight. But that will remain only a wish, since I love Dianne too much for infidelity to be even in a flicker of a thought.

That brings up the question of why do I write dating or relationship poems that are not directly connected to Dianne. I do not have an answer, except the notion that they are fun to write. Like musing on some event from youth whether joyous or traumatizing.

Tangent: once when I had a bit of writers block, the NYC poet Jaxx in conversation suggestion I go out and date the most opposite to my nature woman to get the creative juices flowing. I did not take her advice.

On my sixty-second birthday I did not have a cake with candles. Nor ice cream. I did have chocolate. But if having chocolate declares a day a birthday, then every day is my birthday. 72% dark chocolate is my favorite, just in case any of you feel inspired to gift me some dark chocolate. While on holiday in November, I dropped into the Kyya Chocolate shop in Fayetteville, Arkansas. They have a wild kosher salt 72% dark chocolate which must be placed on one’s bucket list as a means of experiencing rapture.

Oh. I got off topic. Chocolate does that to me.

Love & Light. Tree & Leaf.



A father sledgehammers his son
with the “big boys don’t cry” lie.

The son learns to cry
in his own time, his own space.

There is a large rock upon the mountain
that collects his tears in a granite bowl.

The steel of the son’s spirit
strikes sparks upon the rock with each drop.

The son realizes the polished steel
is a looking glass and a weapon.

He chooses to use that steel
to prop his eyes open to the light.

In that light, he discerns the generational pain
lashed to his father’s hard words.

The son searches family photo albums
to learn what is long gone and sharply missed.

The photos devolve from color,
to black and white, to a stiff sepia.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney