Dominant Wavelength

The woman who kicks and screams
on the carpeted floor of the group room
knows she won’t make it,
anytime soon, away from that place
in the barn where she hides
the straight edge razor
that cuts the even rows in her thigh.

The paint she spreads on canvas
never looks like anything identifiable
from nature, but something abstract,
from the deeper parts of nurture,
with black lines—that appear to be
from a child’s coloring book
or a church’s stained glass windows—
that depict the stories of unnamed saints
and frame nothing she can put a name to.

There are one-hundred and three scars
in her flesh that attempt to represent
what is repressed and somehow
might be fixed, like the blue she says
is wrong, not of itself, but in the upper right
of her latest canvas—the blue that is too dark
but has dried and refuses to mix
with white for a lighter shade.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Daughter of the Red Cliffs

The instant the Blue Woman’s daughter
was born, the earth spoke harshly:
everyone listened, some ran out of the hospital,
some crossed themselves and muttered prayers
to the blessed virgin.

Like any mother warning an intruder
to stay away from her child,
the Blue Woman screamed
with the final flexing of muscles
that pushed her daughter
into the attending midwife’s hands
and the earth backed up three paces,
spoke again, but softer, conceding,
then grumbled its discontent
in another part of the city.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Crows Flying

In a dream
the crows came
to the place
where your body
lay dead
and clutched
your limbs
in their claws
then heaved
their wings
and bore you
into the sky
in a reenactment
of how
they once
lifted the moon
beyond the clouds.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clover Leaf

With a finger pressed
in chiseled white letters,
Delphi rubs silence
from the stones lining Arlington,
washes once bellicose soldiers
with a old prayer recited,
hears the long roll of drums.
Her bare feet press the echo
of church bells into the ground
beyond the bent green grass
grown about the singular flower
of the old second corp.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bush League

Lisa walked over to the park across the street,
carried a can in one hand and a brush in the other
and a hand cloth in her left hip pocket.

She painted a big red X on the grass about half way
from the shortstop position and the bare spot
where the left fielder would stand.

Lisa left a note stating: My prophetic dream
marks this spot to be where a meteor
will strike in a fiery blaze of heavenly glory

Even with the outfielders and infielders avoiding
the big red X with the superstitious fastidiousness
of a player on a forty-nine game hitting streak,

William, Lisa’s bloop-hitting nephew, increased
his batting average by only four points
during the two weeks it took the grass to grow

tall enough for the park services lawn mower
to clip away all the foreboding.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


We stopped seeking the Etruscans
amid the old, lonely thoughts
and assumed them absorbed

and dispersed through the larger stock
of the Romans as they spread
across their burgeoning empire.

The study of God, god, gods
fell away as well, this terra cotta notion
of in-grave kings and queens,

this riverine country of shoulder length hair,
the blackness of coffee a more perfect measure
of morning-afters in Winter.

What time is it to you, now that your ghost towns
have names in a forgotten language?

What day are you the lioness? The gazelle?
The small black spider with red markings?

Yes, you are slim enough for apples,
a serpentine appellation when you dance,
for night dark chocolate to alter our poetry.

But, the fact that your hand searches the wall
by the door for a switch, a light, the static glow
of molecules in excited motion

suggests something I can’t quite place my finger on,
the index key lost to the translation
of alder trees after the fire.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


This lumbering sleep
meanders through
the frenzied black.

Delphi slaps the pillow
four times, swats
separate moon beams.

Her trembled body
tasks a whole breath
to a staggered minute.

This curtain I close
traps the moonlight
within the bulbous comforter.

When she wide-eye stares
at me, sees nothing, my startled
breath exclaims her waking.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Alternating Phases Correspondent

Delphi’s dream
vibrates the room
off pattern forty-two point seven
Hertz oscillation
out of phase to the norm
like some Star Trek episode.
Danger! Do not wear
a red uniform.
Danger! This is not
a Freudian tunnel
that leads to some
long awaited wet dream.
It turns out to be
a microtubule
quantum state
fluctuating between
an incoherent superposition
and something
a bit more classical
like Timmy crying
Lassie come home!
But the dog
is not sequential
or discrete
and chews up
the most infinitesimal measure
of the Planck scale
so that there is no more
separation between
the first detection
of strong-gravity and
the repetitious swinging
of strings
into the deception
of spheres—
which might as well be
the C-Y-M-K dots
on a poster of Einstein
sticking out his tongue.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

My Few Days Working On A Ranch

The cowboy who bragged He could not be throw’d!
got bucked off by the chestnut stallion.
We took it for granted the horses were wise enough
not to brag they could not be rode.

The red-haired girl who watched us
separate calfs for branding
and burn our ownership into their hides
asked the sheriff to arrest us for child abuse.

I listened to more country music than ever before
but heard only one black voice
though I had read one-quarter of cowboys
who settled the Wild West were of African descent.

The day I helped mend fence
my more experienced partner
fell asleep in the saddle almost immediately.
His horse stopped at every break in the wire.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Emoji Parade

A swallow collapsed mid flight.
Its autopilot landed it safely on a branch.

The day I thought fire rained from the sky
it was snow caught in the sunset beyond the clouds.

The dead apple tree becomes a host to animals
that prefer to eat old rot over crisp promise.

In the emoji parade I was the eggplant.
It did nothing to improve my dating status.

All the protests I birthed in thought but never made
visit my deathbed and ask Why not?

The swallow recovered itself, but walked home.
The neighborhood cat thought it a trap.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney