Whether Disliking or Loving

Paul watched the sun pass overhead
through golden aspen leaves
to soften the light that enters his eyes.

He desired freedom from the bible
and its followers, so he might write
his own scriptures.

Paul grounded himself in children’s verse.
Alan Alexander Milne.
From which he composed a life manifesto.

He claimed to have no answers.
He broadcast Mozart for the sparrows.
Vivaldi for the sparrow hawks.

Paul flooded the neighborhood
with the feeling of being alone
so community might form with urgency.

He thought it might help the brave
mend their brokenness
and the fearful to dance in the mad streets.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wind Scrawls

The wind carries other people’s songs
to our translucent ears.

Lori took the bluegrass out the wind.
Paul snatched the political folk music.

Spoken word merely fogs the wind
when it is asleep.

Neither Lori nor Paul heard the wind
whisper the key to personal power.

Though they did hear angel mumbles
that seemed to mean something.

Lightning dismembers the wind
momentarily—until it recomposes itself.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

I am the Emptiness Between My Atoms

My life rustles.
Doubt strengthens my faith.

The knife that wounds me
strikes mostly nothing.

My glass is full of hunger.
And the eruption of distant stars.

It is easy to think wind blown trees
swat the sky with their leaves.

I discovered this old slowness.
I embraced my obsessions like a prophet.

Cultural torpedoes
sunk my ship of state in heavy waters.

There I am on turbulent seas
afloat in the lifeboat of forgiveness.

Void and expanse are not good names
for what exists between stars.

My molecules are interested in being me
for only so long, then they go.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Tolerance

Lori carried a dust buster
as if it was a six-shooter in a holster.

Whenever she was around rude people
she quick-drew the dust buster

and sucked their ill tempered words
out of the air.

This earned Lori baleful gazes
from those rude people

who wanted their words to land
a knockout punch.

Lori had no trouble with this consequence
but wished to learn

how to empty her dust buster
so it was not a lumbering B-52

dropping its payload
in her trash bin with the city logo.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shame on You

When people say shame on you
you do not have to wear their meaning
like a shawl.

There is what is real.
What we say is real.
And the reality others impose.

You raise your hand
to the big bear constellation
to feel the vibration of universe.

I raise my hand, too
but unfamiliar with galactic things
feel the desire to hold your hand.

Out of the night
the cold apparition of your departed dog
appears to both of us.

It tells us it never liked the food
you placed in its dish—
only hunger forced it to eat.

Before your rebuttal
the apparition evaporates
like so much fog.

You state you will take this rebuke
as a new starting point
for tomorrow’s dog.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Language Experiences Brief Seasons of Breath

The temperature expresses
the frame of emotion.

We the listeners
react like flower buds—

expanding, contracting
rotating trying to find the sun.

Yesterday I sheltered myself
from your frosty suffering.

Today your requisite need
for affection

consumes all the oxygen
in your proximity.

You regularly place
obstacles between us

(like the dining table longways)
to maintain distance.

That suggests something
unraveled your tether to love.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


On the street a torn backpack
spills its belongings.

Not far away a bicycle
bent at odd angles awaits scavengers.

The body of a man with six days beard growth
is gone with sirens, fading as they get distant.

A stream of laughter flows off the sidewalk
from a student gaggle across the street.

Able to set concern aside
the high school track meet proceeds.

A policeman stands erect
at the starter’s pistol initiation of the hundred yard dash.

Involuntarily the policeman places his hand
on his service revolver.

He collects deodorant, toothpaste
and a toothbrush from the street.

And white socks too clean
to suffer from long term homelessness.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Lori is aware her reputation
changes dramatically, depending on who she is with.

She is not with the Sunday go to mass crowds
with their incredible capacity to feel shame.

Rarely she is with those for whom
heavy metal drives red blood cells back to the heart.

Voice hoarse from screaming at low hanging clouds
to expose the bloody face of the rising moon

she digs a hole at the end of the line of many holes
filled with diary pages she wishes to bury.

Lori carries herself tall
unashamed of the whispered gossip about her—

of mismatched lovers and breakups
and unmet hungers gnawing at her bones.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fractured Moon

Decades of rewriting memories
produces a fictional clarity
on childhood trauma
placed in the autobiography.

It all comes back
while endlessly talking
to no one in particular
at the fairgrounds.

The devil was never in the details.
The devil was in the inappropriate touch
and threat-enforced silence
of those who did not care about transgression.

Each neighborhood firework that spikes the sky
or gunshot that punctuates the night
reinvigorates the old shock
and trauma skitters memory bank to nerve endings.

It is not the spangled lights
but the explosive’s radiating displacement wave
that rattles the spine up to the skull
pushing a soul out the top.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lanky Steps Trod

The street preacher who walked up to Paul and Lori
calmly told them to keep burning.

He missed giving the benediction at funeral masses.
He loved to speak in latin to lay people.

When there were no folks on the block to save
he sat and watched birds like flying farolitos at night.

He rejected all of the feminine questions.
He dismissed those he thought followed the cult of Mary.

He debated aloud with the voice in his head.
Occasionally he recited dreams verbatim.

Whenever he saw white collars his face drooped in sadness.
Whenever geese swam the city fountain his face lifted in joy.

He was an effective detour of gang-bangers.
They feared his glory might be contagious.

One day he critiqued maestro Leonardo’s Last Supper
while pointing at the window table in the cafe across the street.

He embraced his loneliness and solitary visions
confident there were people to save from monotony.

He removed garlands of unmet expectations from shoulders.
He implored passersby to expose their secrets.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney