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

Celestial Object Cloaked in Flesh

Paul stood in the middle.
He did not define the middle of what.

He knew he was in the middle
if all measurements started where he stood.

His tapping foot did not change this.
The position of the sun did not change this.

Paul understood
this made himself self-centered.

Self-help books told him
being centered is a good thing.

He decided it was not the starting point
of his measurements

but the radius of the circle he drew
from the starting point of self that mattered.

And whether the drawn circle
was inclusive or exclusive.

Paul noticed his circle’s interior
was brighter than the area outside the perimeter.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Leap

When hydrocarbons
gather in great concentration
above the cities
and news anchor-people
read health warnings
off the prompter
while politicians
bluster their speeches
will the resulting
increased air pressure
become so great
that it rains diamonds?

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Poorly Labeled

A package arrived today
at my Albuquerque home.

The corners were damp.
The package was labeled Rain.

With a box cutter
I slit the tape and opened it.

What I first thought were packing peanuts
was a cloud.

The cloud filled
half the height of the box.

When I pulled the cloud out
it expanded and covered our ceiling.

It rained on the carpet
all through the house.

As rain pelted me
I looked in the bottom of the box.

I saw blackened cardboard
where lightning struck.

The house shock with thunder.
The guest room bed burned.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Holiday Oddity

Paul insisted on wrapping lies
around an awkward truth.

He wrapped both in Christmas lights.
Colorful LEDs to save energy when plugged in.

His drunken faith justified
tobacco unrolled from cigarettes

tossed on the Yule log as it burned
to keep Santa away from our chimney.

Paul buried himself in a flatscreen football game
and counted the girls in advertisements

amazed that they now look more human
in the sense of varieties of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Through all of this he made himself tolerable
somehow reading our faces

as his invisible dials tilted toward self-loathing
by the time the eggnog ran out.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Portraiture

My ability to determine
which secrets to keep
and which to expose
has something
to do with an oval
wooden frame
on the wall
that presents
cut locks of hair
from my ancestors.

Each lock is curled
like a nautilus spiral
above calligraphy script
that names the donor
and I hold the knowledge
that each lock
was taken from the head
as it rested in its casket
before public viewing
as was their custom.

In a box I possess
unmarked sepia photos
that are yellowed
at the card-stock edges
and I play a game
where I try to match
photo to name
by their hair.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney