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

Car Beeps as He Touches the Door Handle

Paul orders scotch neat.
The cocktail waitress returns
with scotch on the rocks.

Because she is an attractive cocktail waitress
and Paul does not like causing a fuss
he fishes out the ice with his fingers.

He is not sure if he is in this club
to view the strippers for inspiration
flirt with the cocktail waitress for inspiration

listen to adjacent conversations for inspiration
drink large quantities of scotch for inspiration
or realize inspiration lives in the desert

with a night full of stars above it
and the risk of cactus spines
at ground level.

The fished-out ice cubes melt on his small table
into a small puddle the cocktail waitress
will have to wipe up.

Paul decides to skip his Thursday
inspiration search and go home
to sleep away his lethargy.

On his way to his car
an urban bobcat prowls the club’s parking lot
and passes within ten feet of him.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Paradox

The ultra patriotic
fix the steal
militia man
carries an AK-47
assault rifle
to the anti-
government rally
to prove
his love of country.

His backpack
is loaded to bear
with ten extra
ammo magazines
just in case
ANTIFA
shows up
to try to stop
his right to
peacefully assemble
and protest.

His blue collar wallet
is ultra thin
from all the donations
to support
vote recounts
and purchase
MAGA swag
since the election
returns and failure
of Mike Pence
on January Sixth
to deliver
his desired victory.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fiery Mars Destructive Pluto

I never thought to ask
why I was born in November.

A friend told me to count the months
backwards to Valentines day.

A Hallmark created holiday
vanished my parents’ mid-life divorce.

So that is why my first four months lived
felt winter’s frost daily.

And why I live the paradox of being
a desert animal that wears the sign of water.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Theory of Everything

Paul put Everything in its place.
Everything rejected this notion
and got up to move about.

Everything did this without animus
without hate.

Everything moved about because
it did not wish to collect dust.
Dust landed on it in motion.

When Paul discovered Everything
was not in its place
he felt a bit exasperated.

The bit was in the lower lefthand corner
of the definition of exasperated.

The full definition of exasperated
reported Paul’s theft to the authorities.

The authorities decided to crackdown
on small thefts and evil greed.

Paul was arrested in the development
of his theory of Everything
moving about without his permission.

He had not thought of calling the authorities
to use force to keep Everything
in its place.

Everything testified on Paul’s behalf
stating he was an excellent human
in all of his faults and frailties.

The authorities agreed
to absolve Paul of his sins
as long as he returned
that bit of exasperation he stole.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Closure

No matter
how dark
and close
to black
a person
behaved
in life
their body
in death
in the ground
greens
the grasses
above them
and the
nearby trees
who tangle
their roots
around them
so they
are hugged.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fiction

Most of my life I stayed away from the family farm.
Whenever I visited the family put me to work.

This is why I, a magic marker salesman, know
how to milk a dairy cow by hand.

My family on the farm has heard of the Covid pandemic.
They think of it as the nineteen-eighteen influenza redo.

Three of the goats amble in and out of the house.
They like to lie down on the guest room floor when I nap.

Grandfather sustains a quarter acre of prairie.
It reminds him of what his grandfather plowed under.

When I visit I think of my stay as a prison sentence
for psych-patients learning calm from animals and sweat.

All the poems I write while visiting I collect into a folder.
A label on the folder says Memoir written in magic marker.

After each farm stay, I am a bit more callused on the hands.
This does not stop me from writing a thank you note.

I post the thank you note near midnight.
I do this so my friends do not see me appreciate my family.

This way I can complain about the sunflower
that stares in the window when I exit the shower naked.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney