Story About a Pachyderm

Their leader was some guy
who wore his red baseball hat backwards.

I addressed him, but he threw
a half-empty beer bottle in my direction.

The bottle missed my head
and broke on a parking block behind me.

A dog licked up the puddled beer
without cutting its tongue on shards.

Before I could yell at him
he yelled at me for absconding with his elephant.

The only elephant in the vicinity
felt great gusts of fire fill its belly.

Then the grey beast rose
with four people in its gondola.

I was not one of the ascending people
so felt falsely accused.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Faces Unpainted by Prophesy

I danced with Delphi.

Something Greek but universal
with moonlight.

A cobbled street
lined in trees
at the edge of town
went outward
and uphill.

My body rang
with each step
and each step shared.

Two frequencies
separated
and overlapped.

At no time did we
let go of each other’s hand.

So giddy I became
when the air
thinned of vendors
and consumers.

The closed flowers’
heads dangled.

Out to her old stones in ruin.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Restless

The astrologer
asks Paul
if he has
always been
a Scorpio.

I doubt it
he replies.
My restless birthday
moves yearly
about the calendar
to the month
with the best
photograph.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Treasure

A second harvest
snuck in before the first freeze.

A can of ripe pitted olives
empty—the attached lid pushed inside.

Ranks of aspens in one direction.
Files in the other.

The bones of a homestead
visible in a few chimney stones.

A path by the creek
maintained by elk and deer.

The raucous call of a scrub jay
from a lonely greyed fence post.

Country gravestones so old
the names are worn off.

A couple pearlescent sapphires
on an ant mound.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Window above Thirteen Thousand Feet

Maybe I should not have brought you here.
Paul said to Lori—
the mountain top beneath their feet
the tree line half a mile back.

The air is so thin I see saints through the veil.
Lori said to Paul—
her hand clutched a wisp of cloud
her other hand on a rock to steady herself.

Do you see the miracle workers or the martyrs?
Paul asked Lori—
his eyes searched the present sky
his ears listened for wing flaps.

The everyday saints like single moms.
Lori replied to Paul—
spying women like her mother
who survived husbands lost in wars.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Greatness

When I was small children—
a small child—
I filled my hands with fallen leaves.
Nine in number.
One for each position on the ball field.

I used river smooth stones
to represent the other team.
Fifteen of them.

They needed subs during the game.

Four round magnets
taken from the refrigerator
represented the bases.

I used a crooked stick to measure
the base paths
but never got the diamond shape
to have ninety-degree angles.

The air in the back yard was not quite right
for my pretend stadium
with the rot of the compost pile
seeping out from the covering dirt.

So I set up in the side yard under the maple.

I was all twenty-four players
and two coaches—
one of which picked up a red phone
to call the bullpen.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Conversation Residue

On the porch from a glider—a wave.

A grudge disrobes to dance a polka
while saying forget me.

Old papyrus contains untranslated guidance.

Do not sit next to me
no matter how pleasant your intentions.

Admit it out loud.

Your behavioral suggestions
are not mandates.

Drink this so the china cup is empty
and may be hand washed.

Not every spot on the wall is good for staring.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Trust

In time I will expire.
I have no expiration date.

How did an omniscient god
not print this number somewhere on my body?

How may I budget my retirement
without this detail?

What if I run out of money
before the end?

What if my excess capital
causes my inheritors to fight

and squander their inheritance
on lawyers?

I will pre-designate
those who preserve the landscape

of hills and woods once soaked red
with American blood.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Heritable Changes

I saw my likeness
in the sepia tones of a daguerreotype.

A single ostrich feather in my Hardee hat.
The face stony, holding still for the exposure.

I was dressed for war.
Adorned with war’s accoutrements.

Then I saw the dead
the man who shared my likeness killed

with a Merrill carbine
and three Colt six-shooters.

I saw hope in the dead’s eyes
upon me spying them within the bounds of the photo

like suddenly their fright evaporated
and their shaking ceased.

Like the trauma of the grievous wounds
settled in my generation and expired.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Longevity

Some days
I think of washing some dishes
and not others.

I calculated I spent half my life
with this southwestern pattern
on my plates and bowls.

And tableware so nicked, dinged and scratched
it looks as if the dullness
was part of the original design.

Thirty-three years
and I have not lost a single spoon
fork or knife.

Only souvenir coffee cups
to mark and commemorate national park visits
have impacted the floor to shatter.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney