One Or Two In Every School

At a thousand yards
broken children
hear each others’ silence.

Without the superpower of normalcy
each knows they are a mutant,
wanna be X-Men.

Too young to understand
there is no such thing as normal,
they compare invisible scars.

The bewildering business of being
traffics in misunderstanding
and a roster of bullies.

On a future day, a teacher
will succeed in educating them
that they are fully human.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Prohibited By Buddha

A nun stood
in a square
outlined in chalk.
One of many squares
of varying sizes
and colors
on an uneven sidewalk
with three dandelions
through the cracks.

A river smooth stone,
a charcoal black
Chinese character cut
and painted on it,
sits in the upper loop
of the number eight.
Or infinity.

Lighter than air
the nun hops
the boxes
to the delight
of all the neighborhood

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


According to the Wikipedia entry on Hopscotch, in the section titled Origin, the game was prohibited by Buddha, with a link to games Buddha would not play. When I read this I found it curious.

Breath Mint Tin

Milkweed butterflies.
Tartan picnic.
A flower petal dress.

A girl sips tea with dolls.

Her innocent lips.
Her mouth says, open.
No sesame. No forty thieves.

A girl locates a half smoked cigarette.

Hidden in the dirt.
Behind the milkweed
as she sought stones to serve as teacakes.

A girl picks up pieces of a broken promise.

Her fingers run the puzzling edges.
Her fingers peel the white paper.
Tobacco oils stain her fingertips.

A girl pinches her nose.

She traffic-cops her dolls.
There are seven intersections between here
and her bedroom.

A girl sets the paper and tobacco down.

Adjacent to her mother’s lipstick.
Between two citrus scented candles.
On top of her Altoids tin.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lights Go Out

On a bedstand
a sprig of lavender dries

over a photo of Father
wearing one of his rare smiles.

A curtain of song
darkens a quartet of windows.

Lori’s hair falls past her shoulders.

From another room,
the news describes the violence

of the ignored
refusing to be the ignored any longer.

She whispers a prayer
for the protesters and law enforcement.

The sky reddens.
She fears the phone may ring.

She settles into her bed.
A block of ice.

The lavender scent
flashes images of her very first dog.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I stole the key
that unlocked
the sky
for rain
to be retrieved
from storage
and used it
for my diary
after Paul
the felony
of reading
four weeks
worth of entries
and laid bare
all my thoughts
to our fellow

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Like Any Good Son

Like any good son,
I was not good all the time.

Like many good sons,
I grew up, attended university,

forged my own life and career
which took me far from my father’s house.

Because I was far away in my own life,
I was not by my father’s side when he died.

He died in an auto accident,
so it is a good thing I was not by his side.

I attended his memorial in the church
he attended every Sunday for fifty years.

The service was midwestern-protestant
and beautiful in that manner.

Three hundred mourners told me
how his goodness touched them.

Like any good son, I kept quiet
about all the times he was not good.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dervish Circles

I washed
my shame
with color-safe
and dried it
set on permanent-

I hung
my shame
in my closet,
adjacent to
three, white,

My shame
on a cedar
so moths
would not
eat holes
out of it
and spoil
its sky-jump
color knit
for when
my mind
is a whirl
of dervish

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mr. Hays

Mr. Hays taught remedial English.
That was Glenbard West high school.
He taught us to balance our checkbooks
before we had bank accounts.
He taught us to wash laundry properly
instead of deconstruct Melville’s Moby Dick.
He encouraged us to take cooking classes
so even as bachelors we would eat right.

He taught us other things to prepare us
for the real world of having only a high school diploma.
We never learned to write a haiku,
but we all had professional looking resumes.
I was the remedial oddball,
who went on to university to earn a higher degree.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Dianne pointed out that the word bachelors excludes girls. The remedial English class this poem refers to, my Junior year English class, was a dozen teen boys. No girls. The girls were smart enough or so diligent at homework that they remained in regular English classes.

As far as knowledge learned in high school that helped me in the real world, the stuff Mr. Hays taught us in remedial English and Algebra I & II are the things I found most useful in my adult life. Thanks Mr. Hays. Thanks Mr. Miller for the Algebra.

In The Running

I hate reading.
How the letters keep changing places.
How some words move, then say, Boo!

I love math.
When sixteen refuses to be sixty-one.
When divided-by retains its dots.

I color outside the lines.
My cat drawing has bat wings to fly.
My family drawing is a headstone in the rain.

School brands me Stupid.
A red-hot iron word applied daily,
by twenty-three classmates’ tongues.

Though I fail to outrun ridicule,
I win every footrace at recess.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Black Dog Howled

Black Dog howled.
He scraped the mud off of his paws.
He catalogued where he buried bones.

Yesterday’s howl investigated
a shrine to shame
and the submission of the weak hearted.

Today’s dried mud
preserves patterns of the down trodden
and the path to misplaced feelings.

Tomorrow’s bones
will record the ancient manner of fear
and the failure of moving past failure.

Black Dog howled.
He scraped mountains down to the sea.
He catalogued a million triumphs.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney