An angel held Paul back.
This was not the kind of guarding
he believed a guardian angel provided.
He should have read the fine pint.
The bully skated away scot-free.
The bully was a nun in a habit.
She skated on a rink not a river.
What goes around comes around.

Paul wondered if bully nuns
had guardian angels.
He did not believe the saying
the clothes make the man—
in this case the habit
make the nun.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Response in Silence

Paul spoke to me through a walky-talky
while he sat on a stone some distance away.

He told me he watched pigs eat
in a farm documentary

and felt his father’s summation
He eats like a pig was inaccurate.

I thought Paul ate like a wildebeest and said so
but forgot to depress the talk-button.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


For the seventh cavalry
the turnpike to heaven
passes Muskogee
and the parade of coffins
look like soapbox derby racers
a little short on paint.

Charon operates
the tollbooth
for the bridge span
over the Arkansas River
to finance a meeting hall
in a retired steamboat
for all the soldiers’ widows
in a state of mental imbalance
due to loneliness.

Four of those women
play Mozart and Bach
as a string quartet
from sheet music
on the front bow of the ship
near where new women
join the floating refuge
from brass bugle calls
written by Dan Butterfield.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wall Street

A raccoon dines in candle light.
It eats corn on the cob rotated in its two hands.

Its nose and whiskers are greased with butter.
Salt grains decorate the kernels.

What in the dark I took as
the raccoon’s gigantic balls

are two dark grey rubber balls
that were thrown in to the trash by an unknown.

The raccoon is the center of my attention
until it wonders off

out of the kerosene lamp light
and away with an old New York Times

tucked under one arm
so it may check its retirement investments.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Half Asleep from a Late Afternoon Nap

A long gray strand of God’s hair
snakes across the dining room table
out of the chicken casserole.

A portrait of Sequoia sits on the fireplace mantel
with his alphabet inscribed as a paper frame
within the wooden frame.

A bee that inadvertently flew into the house
now bangs all his buzz
on the picture window viewing the terraced garden.

The gray strand of hair is twenty-two feet long
that is why I ascribe it to God
and not grandfather or grandmother.

My Apple computer products
contain the Cherokee font package
as I begin to learn Sequoia’s native language.

I open the door then use my hand against the window
to guide the bee to freedom and home
only to let four flies in.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Spinning Snake Sky to Ground

The deepest part of myself
is far shallower than the pacific ocean.

You will hear no wing flaps
because I never dream of flying.

Struggle smells like salty sweat
and sours as bacteria thrives in the wetness.

I am my own monster
hatched from horrifying childhood experiences.

My sixth sense causes me to zero in on
all the road kill along US highways.

By the time I reach the Texas border
I am melancholy.

By the time I reach the Oklahoma border
I root for every tornado.

I find solace in those things humans fail to control.
I find them irresistible.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


In the movie about that dad
who pushes his kids too hard.
He pushes those people
who exploit his kids’s
status as phenoms
just as hard.

I will leave it to you to guess
if the movies shows the kids
playing on grass
playing on a chalk marked field
playing on concrete.

I will leave it to you to guess
if it is a father-son movie
or a father-daughter movie
or if the featured kid
is gay, straight or trans.

I will leave it to you to guess
what type and shape of ball
the kids were phenomenal at playing.
Or if their genius set game pieces
on a checkered board.

I will tell you that no animals
were injured in the making
of this movie.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Three Giant Steps

The dark told me a story about my father.
How he went to where a meteor fell.
Not to the place where it hit the ground.
But to the place it streaked across the sky.

My father went there to sew up the rip in the sky.
He found stationary lightning
awaiting a tornado’s passage below it
because it did not wish to compete for attention.

He thought of wielding the lighting as his own.
He thought better of that thought
and left the lightning to its own decisions.
It shot downward and split an apple tree.

Finding no rip to sew my father returned from the sky.
He first touched his foot on a mountain.
He second touched his foot on the river below the mountain.
His third stopped on the top doorstep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


When I finished my self-defense class
my guardian angel gave her two-week notice.

Now that she did not have to accompany me incognito
she unfurled her wings for the first time in thirty years.

She stopped cleaning the house
to protect me from everyday germs

as if my self-defense class taught my body
how to fend off strep and nasty bathroom bacteria.

She did polish the door-nobs one last time.
But hung the laundry on a clothesline during pollen season.

I thought that a bit passive-aggressive
since she knew I had juniper allergies.

By the time they dried, my white towels
were a wondrous goldenrod deep into the plush.

She was gone by midnight not to be seen again
and I figured I imagined her giving her two-week notice.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Missouri Compromised

A grasshopper swam
traveled something like
single file
and ate their way
across US lawns
and prairie
so a single line
in the country’s grass
stood out
when astronauts
looked down
from the international
space station.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney