Blank Gun Silencer

Paul woke up Early on Tuesday.
He poured Early a cup of tea.

Early borrowed Paul’s car for errands
and stopped for scones.

Early returned home to find Paul
reading Blank Gun Silencer.

Paul returned his teacup
to the coffee table but missed the coaster.

Breadcrumbs littered the polished wood
around as well as on top of the ceramic dish.

As lunchtime approached, Early
stopped being himself, paused,

looked out the kitchen window
as a black cat stalked a roadrunner.

Paul felt sure this was a poetic metaphor
for the inevitable struggle.

The roadrunner easily evaded the cat,
leaping to the top of the fence.

Early faded out of existence
as the second hand swept toward noon.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In Explanation

Trust does not give a damn about me.
I misread the fine print.

Forgiveness is a joke told at my expense
and charged to my line of credit—I only have cold cash.

Understand men tick and tock.
Swing and miss.

Guilt is the boulder Sisyphus repeatedly
pushed up hill and watched roll back down.

Blame is a finger pointing every which way
before turning to my chesty north.

In explanation, I tell you
I begged for my life to become a story

worthy of the Greeks
so astute readers learn from my outrageous decisions.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


When I visit
the old farmstead
and the nearby town
I look for faces
that mirror mine.

More often I find
no resemblance
and I have to accept
that most of the line
relocated to Iowa
during the oh-eight recession.

That said, the banker
recognizes my father in me
and offers to buy me lunch
at the diner that once served
great depression soup lines
so I can fill him in
on what our family is up to
since the wind scattered us.

He points out a youth movement
in farming with technology
and how the old timers
couldn’t make ends meet
on family farms now too small
for efficiencies
and market fluctuations.

He makes arrangements
for me to meet the young man
who rents our acreage
and the adjoined family farms
where GPS navigation
did not turn the tractor around
for three straight miles.

Though this young man is new,
he walks us straight to the rows
where my dad’s ashes
were plowed into the black soil
twenty-eight years ago.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bicycling My Old Community

It was a shock
to see the adobe brick
was removed from the ruin
and to see a new structure
plastered and brightly painted.

The old wrought iron fence
with its spear-like projections
lay in a heap waiting
for workers to haul it
to the metal recycling site.

My eyes took it all in,
especially the checkerboard
tiled patio
that I was not sure
was true to the old ways
but looked trippy
for dancing.

A sign with pictures
of the two women
outlined the reclamation
of this historic building
and their plans to make it
an events center.

The sign spelled out
their names
and it was easy to tell
they were not from around here.
I wondered how this trespass
upon our mountain town
would go over with the families
whose influence
was revered like royalty
long before the Treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Moon Traced A Slow Arc In & Out Of Clouds

There was still a Here then.
We had trouble locating it
as it rotated
continually turning.

It had a window by a door,
a birdcage is visible
with a canary
its song muffled by the glass.

But you remembered
three windows with drawn curtains
and a sense that Here
was where the secrets hide.

I remembered a cat
always interested in the canary
and how it leapt
and swatted at the cage.

We were somewhere else
and kept looking
away from each other
in search of a hinged door

that let us enter
the Here to meet with Now
sitting on a loveseat
watching the cat and canary.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lay To Rest

A bagpipe’s call
wends its way
through cedars
and fog
to my porch
where I cut my hair
with clippers
and a quarter inch

Forgive me
my selfish interests
and petty happiness
both of which
passed through
the shredder
this morning.

over a chair
my white shirt
does not signal

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


We met in an aspen grove.
You came from the mountain top
to meet me.
We were near the tree line.
The sun got under our skin.
The wind picked up
and the air cooled quickly.
The sun hid behind
a newly arrived cloud.
The cloud was crow-dark.
You lifted your smoking hand.
The leaves browned as you passed.
The aspen trunk you touched
burst into flame
simultaneously with thunder
that knocked me down.
The trunk split ground to bough.
You whistled to the cloud.
The cloud replied with cold rain.
Heavy shot-glass drops.
My head felt their blows.
My nose bled.
My ears rang for days.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


A few times in my life hiking above ten-thousand feet in the mountains, I have been caught by thunderstorms. Foolishness on my part not paying enough attention to weather forecasts or thinking I could get up the mountain and back with time to spare. It is quite the experience. Both terrifying and glorious.

Having No Other Explanation

Near our tent
on the beach
four ivory tusks—
large ones
like elephant tusks—
lay on the sand
in a geometric pattern
with the designer’s
washed away.

We were there
several days
before we realized
they moved
a few feet every night
toward the dune
that separated
the beach
from the parking lot.

You suggested
a phalanx of ants
hefted them
in the moonlight
using their super
strength ratio
to body mass
and teamwork

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In A City

In a city made of mud and straw
a silence in every doorway
a mouth locked by fear.

I walk daily through the sun strewn streets
my hands shooing crows
my footprints puffing settled dust.

Happily ever after migrated
to a land of oddly garbed strangers
where the sky is a different blue.

In a city full of Cassandras
remaining citizens listen and unlisten
to daily pronouncements.

Rhymes hold the ear longer
against the owners’ will, while hands
refuse to let go.

Every citizen is a harbinger
claiming a rain god is soon to arrive
as the umbrella shop declares bankruptcy.

In a city of multiple layers of dust and ash
there are ten thousand reasons
and ten crosses visible from every doorway.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney