Collective Cloud Space

For months Paul was silent
on his withdrawal up the mountain.

That was after society
instituted too many rules.

He was ready for rules
protecting the land and water from harm.

He was disgusted by rules
protecting business from accountability.

He suffered a contaminated nightmare
that refused Superfund clean up dollars.

He went up the mountain
so he’d not declare war on the world of men.

This fractious estrangement
began his talking to birds.

I catch glimpses of him when I hike the tree line,
but he always vanishes into the aspens and pines.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


with my fingers
in my mouth,
I see you are here
to repossess Spring
for non-payment
for services rendered.

Once my mouth
is free of fingers,
I show you
the mailed check stub
but that holds
no water
with you.
And you quote
a line in Latin
from Ecclesiastes.

You suggest
I go back to eating
the scraps
that got me
through Winter.
You say I owe you
for the honey
I just licked
from my fingers.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Florida intruded upon Paul’s dreams.

It sent four astronauts skyrocketing
inside a Saturn V.

Spider thread tethered the rocket
to the northeast corner of Paul’s bed room ceiling.

Florida annexed Paul’s major league baseball aspirations.

The aspirations were way past their freshness date.
A bit fermented, like a peach five days on the ground.

Paul’s shower-head sprayed him with whiskey.
The Saturn V reached orbit.

Florida directed the incidental music in Paul’s background.

A heptagon nebula blinked each time it was tapped.
It wanted leaches to drain excess gas out of its polygon.

The nebula wished to form stars, but not ignite them.
It planned to create the perfect constellation in darkness.

Florida picked dead flies out of the craters of the moon.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peel Of White Bark

Paul recognized he wore a fever.
He was not so sure if it was love or the flu.

Against his conscious will he scratched his nose.
His voice turned into a dull hoarse vapor.

He dreamt himself walking an aspen grove.
He asked for forgiveness for bringing his sickness up the mountain.

Again, he was not sure if his sickness
was love or the flu.

Paul decided to keep his mouth shut about his condition.
His words circled the wagons to defend themselves.

The aspen grove asked him for an apology.
He was not sure an apology engaged forgiveness.

He wanted to be saved, but was not sure
if it was from love or the flu.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Empty Room

Paul gave a speech.
He started, This is about
the violence done to little boys.

It is about that strange
backhanded love
that blights
the household landscape
and lowers the thermostat
without touch.

He talked about waking up
in places other than
where he fell down
and how his limbs felt

Paul blurred his metaphors
and the images
from the old cellar
where his mouth first filled
with self-loathing.

He spoke, I have not survived
as each day I wait
for a sense of ending.

And as beneficial
as your listening is to me,
it is not an ending
or a beginning to an end
or anything other than
the completion of a connection
through storytelling.

But not if you run away.
Emotionally I mean.
In the manner of
That is his problem.
I am speaking about
how do I inhabit
my own body?
Or endure the press
of a woman’s body
against mine?

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Pink Pearl

Paul did not remember
what he told Dora
of his gospel of terror
and that he
is merely a reflection
of the clouds
on the river’s surface.

He remembers
how he and Dora
flapped their arms
and laughed
until tears
squeezed out
of their eyes
under the cedar waxwings
in the hawthorn tree.

He thinks about
how the world looks
from the river bottom
eyes open looking up
through the
tannin curtain
at the passing clouds
and the blackbirds
in the cattails.

It explains
that look
he often wears
and how his logic
has this sense
of erasure
as the pebble
strikes the surface
and ripples
through the clouds.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Burned Out Wick

I can tell from looking in your eyes
you will skin me alive
if I keep secrets from you.

I think about all the ways
I am the target
of your paranoid marksmanship.

Of course there is shouting
when we use vodka to fuel
our lamps.

At least while you are drunk
your aim is poor
and I can run to the river.

And there I may dive in
to join the other surviving fish
with hooks cut from their mouths.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


All the birds singing
in Paul’s breath
blur the love poems
as he reads
at open mic.

How they got there
has something to do
with swallowing miller moths
attracted to his porch light
at dusk.

At his last checkup
the doctor
placed a tongue depressor
in his mouth
for a better look at his tonsils

and saw
a lesser gold finch
poke its head
up his throat
and sweetly call tee-woo.

Paul notices
all the birds go silent
when he thinks
a sparrow hawk glides
on thermals about his head.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul clings
to that one photograph
of his daughter
in her mother’s arms
from that first day
and when he looks
at the faded colors
he can still hear
his daughter yawn
her one big intake
of breath
before that
heavy blue
emerged under
her skin
and he fell
into a crevasse
that opened
in the hospital
floor while
the code sounds
became too distant
to comprehend.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul wakes up
one morning
on an unfamiliar beach
with palm trees,
fiddler crabs
and a deflated
beach ball.
He rolls over
on the sand,
face up
to the sky
and asks
a hovering seagull
how his Chicago
car crash
turned into
a tropical shipwreck.
The waves
crash the shore
as the tide
turns inward
and a loud drip
as each wave
recedes into itself
drums the gulls’ calls
into mechanical
whirls and
monitoring beeps
while a shadowy
places a cuff
about his arm
and pumps a ball.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney