Pent Up

Paul let his hammer sing
through the air and crash

on two small plastic toys
that broke previously

under his boots
because he did not bother

to carry a flashlight
on this well known patch

of woods and rocks
last night after dark,

returning from watching
a cormorant at dusk

out of place
on a beaver pond

on the stream
carrying snow melt

down the unvisited
mountain top.

Paul’s dog flinched
each time the hammer struck

and little pieces flew
in all directions

for Paul to vent is rage
at turning his ankle

a deep blue-black
and swollen

after sidestepping
other might-be toys

and landing on
a tree root wrong.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Where Things Go

After overhearing me
speak into the phone
and say, The moon
is made of green cheese
,

the mouse in my library
opened all my old
physics and astrophysics
textbooks

and shopped on-line
for rocket parts
after abducting my credit card
from my wallet while I slept.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Argument

Paul seeks a starting point.
He wishes to un-scroll a set of disagreements.
He remains sure it is a language issue.
Cultural differences of the same words.

Everything is specific to human emotion.
Reactions often not coupled with decisions
where knowledge and will overrule
the visceral, the adrenaline rush.

Divides to span. Walls to scale.
Like cutting a strong raw onion
with company present in the kitchen.
Forced tears are unstoppable.

Again. A starting point.
A beer over Irish nachos in the pub?
A walk to the mountain top?
An email first to test the waters?

He tries to make sense of his memory
of the causal interaction.
Maybe the exchange is best viewed
as water downstream of a bridge.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Happy Meal

Dora clanged
her pots and pans
to wake the city
to the ghosts
freed from
their fleshy shells
by fast food
and sugary treats
but only managed
to annoy
the two occupants
of a fishing boat
riding the tide
for the outer banks
as the sun’s
bald head
first breached
the horizon
and everyone else
was too hungover
from New Year’s
solitary celebrations
to respond
to an alarm
about their
pandemic comforts.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Message From On High

Do the dead
pardon us
for our trespass
against them
during their lives?

And for speaking
ill of them
after they
are gone
to memory’s pasture?

The postal service
delivered
a postcard
from my father
fifty-two years late.

It was a photo
of Aspen, Colorado
and its snow glossed
mountains
with a blurred

blue note
in his poor
penmanship
that I could not
decipher.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

City And Tower

Compare
Adam and Eve
fully formed
and capable
of language
with our
Darwinian ancestors
who in different
parts of the earth
assigned different
meanings
to certain verbal
sounds and cues
so much so
that when they met
peacefully
in a marketplace
of Babylon
the ziggurat
got labeled
the City and
Tower of Babel

and now
you must decide
if humanity
was truly united
with one language
worldwide
before the Gate of God
was created or not.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

49ers

The sun crawls across the sky.
So slow, I think it must fall to earth.

The dogs are off chasing raccoons,
barking through the corn.

No one can do enough for the poor.
Capitalism’s ethos refuses to pay more.

Not you. You have a six pack of Blue Ribbon
and your spot in the ravine

sandwiched between two blackberry bushes
where you wedged a junkyard bucket seat.

Secluded away from my teasing
you read your trashy romance novels.

I know because, from the hayloft
retrieving bales after the leaves fell,

I spotted the red cloth
you tied around a slender tree.

It once was your 49ers t-shirt.
Well. That red, if it was not.

The sun speeds up a bit
and pulls the wind up a notch.

I spy your 49ers shirt from the porch
when the wind flutters it like a flag.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hitchhiker Fidgets Not Allowed To Smoke

Kansas is a long flat drive,
but not as flat as Nebraska.

It is torture in a borrowed car
with a broken radio and no AC.

But it gives me the chance
to sing all the Peter Paul & Mary songs

I remember from those folky days
when I ignored the Beatles.

A study on billboard art
proved an interesting research paper

and so did the different ways
hitchhikers hold their thumbs.

You can imagine
how the engine strains

doing ninety on the interstate
elevating to the Rockies

or enjoying the gravity-payback
and extra miles per gallon

descending toward the Mississippi
and Saint Louis.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Succumbing

In a wheelchair
at a rural intersection
with the only traffic light for miles
sits a battered Teddy Bear
propping up a cardboard sign:
Homeless War Vet.

Under the shade of trees
a man with prosthetic legs
appears to snooze
through the awfulness
after twenty-eight straight days
without a bed or shower.

The sycamore trees,
old as the Civil War,
mark a property boundary
in the county land records
that go back
to nineteen-eighteen
when his great grandfather
purchased the farm
from the bank
after its owners,
with no successors,
died of the influenza.

With no traffic
at the red light
children bound
out of a solitary car
with less than
one dollar in change
for the Teddy Bear.
But that does not
fill his vest pocket
or the income gap
during the pandemic.

So history repeats itself.
Obliquely.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney