Maple Sapling

After a breakup,
the hole in your heart
is a perfect place
to plant flowers.

The flowers
make you prone
to reclining
on the couch more
as you embrace
your inner landscape,
but you were
already on the couch
mindlessly watching TV.

If the breakup
is especially bad
and the hole
especially large,
may I suggest planting
a maple sapling
so you may
tap the bark for sap
some spring.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Snow Will Fill It Next

The empty nest
is a bird nest
in the cholla
outside our bedroom.
The thrashers left it
after their fledglings
flew up to the roof top.

This is the third time
this summer
the nest has filled
and emptied.

I think the thrashers
build the nest taller
over the previous egg shells.
The nest looks
more like a twig and stick
high rise
at this point.

Though I try,
the cholla’s arms
prevent me
from peering down
into the bottom
of the nest.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Traffic Rumbles In The Background

A thrasher knocks a bumble bee out of the air
and duels with it until the bee is dead and eaten.

The grizzled Russian men play chess
and grumble about their stale fortune cookies.

Someone’s young daughter places an origami crane
on a stray dog’s nose.

A bus lowers itself with a great whoosh
to ease sidewalk access for the elderly with canes & walkers.

A yiddish accent recounts her loss for words
when she first saw the Grand Canyon from Bright Angel Lodge.

Two navy officers talk about a war
three hundred years in the history books.

On my park bench, I wait for my father to come along.
He is twenty-seven years in the grave.

Punctual as always, his ghost arrives.
We chat corn futures and the trade war’s effects on farms.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Mary and Joseph
accepted the innkeeper’s
overcrowded stable,
but feared for the many
behind them
who were turned away
to fend for themselves
through the frigid night.

A Roman guard
patrolled the streets.
He rousted folks
from the alleys
that protected them
from the relentless wind
He forced them out
of the town proper
into the wilderness.

Piercing wolf calls
kept the weary travelers
huddled together
and in doubt of whether
in the morning
they would be counted
in Caesar Augustus’s
coopted census.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Why is the census coopted? A Roman census of Judea took place in the year 6 C. E. It was ordered by the new Roman governor of Syria, Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. The gospel of Luke uses this census as a means for Joseph and Mary to travel to his birth town of Bethlehem so the Christ may be born in the home town of King David as prophecy prescribes. Luke places the census 9 years before it actually took place to facilitate his story.

I always found it odd that Joseph and Mary were forced to leave a thriving business and any livestock they owned behind, risk bandits upon the road just to be counted for a census. In the context of reality the loss of production seems crazy. In the context of creating a metaphorical story so the hero (Jesus) is born in the town of prophesy (Bethlehem) so the people rally around the hero, I understand it and am fine with it.

This poem postulates what happens to all the surplus folks who returned to Bethlehem for the census (that end up forcing Joseph and Mary to sleep in a stable and lay the new born savior in a manger) and could find no lodging at all because all space was taken.

Tangent: I always picture the donkeys and burros in the stable nibbling hay out from under the newborn Christ child, because Mary set him in a manger on top of their hay and they were hungry.

What about me? My story of “No Vacancy” took place in Des Moines, Iowa when I planned to stop there for the night back in 1995 on a trip from Milwaukee to the southern Rocky Mountains. I was unaware that their was a farm equipment trade show / convention going on and not a single room was open. I ended up driving south on I-35 into the northern portion of Missouri before finding an open motel room. So I was on the road an extra two hours that day. I guess I could have slept in my car in a Walmart parking lot, but that was not my style. Nor is it my style now.

Love & Light


Sequential By Date

I hope you thought
my hesitation at greeting you
with your name
was me simply
searching through
files and files of memory images
to locate one
with your face
that still had the caption
printed just below
the color field
in the white border.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


I am one of those people who will remember your face for just about forever, but has trouble attaching names to the faces. It is not a problem with people I see regularly, but with the folks I run into infrequently.

I would like to say it is an age issue, but I have had this problem for as long as I can remember.


The oldest tree transformed into a man.
It took about five minutes.
I expected it to be quicker.
He wore a bird nest upon his head.
His skin was callused—bark-like—
and displayed emptiness
at a few knot holes.
I resisted the urge
to poke a finger into those
out of the fear
bees might attack.
When his mouth moved
in attempting to speak
I felt a tingling in my feet
that somehow made sense,
seeing the ground’s fungus
and broad mushrooms vibrate.

The man directed me
to initiate the chore of a lifetime:
to pick up all of the litter
humans have dropped
upon his forest floor
down to the last plastic micro-particle
that has fallen from the sky
and hides within the snow.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Questions Asked

The dust was dust, but it moved
in the guise of grasshoppers.
The dust filled an empty coke-a-cola bottle.
An old, greenish glass bottle
with the lettering stripped
by other self-motivated anti-corporate dust.

The high priestess of the desert
walked in the footprints of a coyote.
She wore disagreement as a colorful garment.
She wore sandals with bells tied to the straps.

The dust heard her arriving
near their new bottle residence
and knew her own dust
slowly entered the air exiting her backbone
as a processional through a gate.

The high priestess of the desert
drank some water from a canteen.
The water in the canteen replaced her lost sweat.
Her dust remained lost to her.

The dust remained dust
and accepted its new companions.
Dust released from the high priestess of the desert
joined the dry ocean bed of relatives
even though they carried no crust of abandoned salt.

The high priestess of the desert
laid down on a spot exactly six feet above
the bones of an ancient dolphin
that swam the wrong direction as the ocean died.

The dust was dust, but it moved
in the guise of grasshoppers.
It gathered in the folds of the priestess’ clothes.
The dust believed she surrendered.
The dust welcomed her home.

copyright © 2016 Kenneth P. Gurney