Throb & Pulse

The voiceless fog
hugged me.
In that hug
it shared its dream.
A place of
contrasts.
Boundless calm.
The sun marred
with indigo.
The thrill of
climbing
out of the bay
up the slopes
into the cedars
and connecting
mountain snow
to the sea.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bear Shirt

War was
our first language.

When I sing
our common prayers
my body fills
with the voices
of our proclaimed heroes.

And our thunder god.

My spirit rises
on a sea of mead
and its waves
pound my skull’s shore.

A golden halo
wreaths my head
to light my eyes
and pierce
the fog of war
to illuminate
the skins
my sword
will brand red.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

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Gourd Pouring Out Sky

Rituals of mumbling.
Retrieval from numbness.

Word hoard.
A pile of unassembled sentences.

Flaunted flesh.
Ill-defined gods.

Washed and air dried.
Patted like a good dog.

Malice stained.
Paper doll.

Mosquito cloud.
Smokey fire defense.

Pushed.
Pushed too far.

Gods. Made things
for moments like this.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Punctuality Freak

Paul searched out his last breath.
It waited for him at a bar
twenty-two years and seven days
into the future.

His last breath knew it would take place
at a local hospital and not a bar
but the waiting period bored it
so it drank.

Paul thought to himself
that his last breath was well on its way
to becoming a lush, a drunk
and might well miss it cue and not be ready.

He tried to convince his last breath
to join AA and dry up
with the help of a sponsor
and new friends to buoy its spirits.

Paul’s last breath told him not to worry.
That it would sober up
when the bell sounded for Paul’s
last lap.

His last breath warned him
that it did not do dramatic last words
like Rosebud or Mother
but might utter a line

from a Shakespearean comedy
or something creepy
like an obscure IRS rule
about diminishing returns.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dreamt He Was Not Dreaming

Paul placed grief in the cedar chest
so it would be fresh
for the next friend who passed away.

He thought of washing his grief
before storing it.
He wished to hang it

on the crescent moon to air dry
but he might lose it
when an owl flew by.

Paul awoke at night
hearing an owl call from a branch
outside his bedroom window.

In the morning he opened
the cedar chest
to double check his grief was still there.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Remember

My heartsong changes
as my body ages
and certain realities
force themselves
upon my bones
especially in winter.

Some days
I walk through
past refrains
in memory
on the mountains
I topped
and the oceans
whose waves
tumbled me.

Disappointment
never resides
in my mouth
on my tongue
as my powerful voice
disperses to a whisper
before the long sleep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Infrastructure Collapse

Paul sat in bed.
He read poetry to Dora.

It was their habit.
She was out of town.

The words Paul read aloud
bounced around the room

not having Dora’s ears
to enter and settle in.

The reverberation of those words
off the walls

vibrated the house
and the rafters creaked.

A leading word bounced
into the bathroom sink and down the drain.

Other words followed
the leading word

and the pipes rattled
as the words vibrated their way

to the old city treatment plant
with tectonic resonance.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Elves

I came across a long array
of people moving through the darkened woods
as snow pelted bough and face.

They did not stop to eat or light a fire for warmth
but kept moving, yet not tripping
on their long scarves that dangled to their feet.

They gathered around a large rock
with hands outstretched
as if warming fingers near a hearth.

And there they slept till dawn
in circles around the stone
and snored like birds in song.

I tiptoed among them and observed
not a single pack with clothes or food.
Not a child carrying a cherished toy.

I watched as the snow
layered blankets upon them
and wondered if they would rise with the sun.

When the night turned darkest before the dawn
they rose as one and shuffled off
to where one tree set distant lights upon its trunk.

They entered the tree one by one
as if passing through a door.
I stood alone among the oaks.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Annual

Paul lined up all his toy soldiers.
Three hundred and seventy-two
authentically painted
fifteen millimeter miniatures
representing American Civil War soldiers
from both sides.

He lined them up against each other.
Blue against Grey and Butternut.

Here it was again. One p.m.
July third, eighteen-sixty three
and that three-quarter mile stretch
from Seminary Ridge
past the Cordon Farm
toward that copse of trees
on Cemetery Ridge
where Hancock’s cloverleafs
waited for the charge
of Pickett’s, Pettigrew’s
and Trimble’s divisions.

As dice hit the landscaped table top
they echoed cannon thunder
as the rebel ranks thinned
in advance of the Emmitsburg Road.

This time would
Anderson’s support be prompt
and Brockenbrough’s men
advance with their
old elan and dash?

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

One House Ghost Town

The bottles were filled
with dust and sand
and their labels etched off
as the glass frosted
under none too gentle winds.

This was once a house
of whores the priests liked to visit
for philosophical debates
and chess matches
often played to a draw.

The glass in the door
was long ago broken
yet still sharp enough
at the shards to inflict cuts
that require stitches.

To the right a box survived
longer than the player piano
and in it lay three spindles
of yellowed paper
with holes punched for song.

But outside where the windmill
functioned with the rusted groans of age
water spilled from a bulls-head spout
into a leaky horse trough
where dandelions grew thick.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney