Off Track

This documentary shows
sealed boxcars rolling past,
miles traveled
and miles to go.

Because this is a black & white documentary
and these are boxcars
I know they travel
to the Auschwitz-Birkenau gate.

My mind starts running lists
of Jewish names and biblical names.
There must be a man
carrying that list somewhere on the train.

I search the passing landscape
for signs that declare
where in Poland
the train is filmed.

I wonder if the Jews, Gypsies and Queers
carry their luggage
or if their luggage and hope
are already taken from them.

The train passes two children
playing near the tracks.
One wears an “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt.
The second tosses a baseball to his friend.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Butcher Paper

I keep dreaming my graduation.
I am a window with no sky.

I am part of a room.
A child in the room jingles keys.

The child then jangles a chain.
It is too dark for the child to unlock itself.

The child asks me, the window,
to cease being opaque

and let the sunlight filter through
the dirt and water stained glass.

The disenfranchised sun
taps me on the frame

to remind me my faded paint
peels and flakes to the ground below.

It suggests I open my eyes
and attend to my appearance.

A silence follows.
I realize I have no hands.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Card Game

Dora stopped playing.
The earth stopped turning.

The stick figures of distant people
tottered and fell down
as the world stuttered to a stop.

One hundred and thirteen religions
sprang into existence
with various explanations
and interpretations of events.

Dora returned from the bathroom.
She picked up her newly dealt hand.
The earth began to spin.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In The Bloodstream

Where lies the key?
I checked every pocket.
Every nook and cranny.

In and under
fifty-three self-help books
by domestic and foreign authors.

At a job fair I learned
I should use my gifts
toward my perfect career

which left me with the choice
of joining the French Foreign Legion
or becoming a suicide bomber.

As I practice exhaling the apocalypse
and envisioning a future
less bright than a nuclear explosion,

I am certain the mightiest proof
of my inner strength
is that I decided to make a career

out of bicycling from my front door
to Who-Knows-Where America
with the notion of reaching Nirvana

somewhere in between
leaving it all behind
and a collision with an untoward fate.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


How many years have I prayed
since that day playing dead
kept the bullets aimed
at those folks trying to flee the park
through the da-da-da-da-da-da rain
of another full ammo clip emptying
from on high and over
the police and EMT sirens
when my faith in God
ran smack into doubt’s
full metal jacket?

This world must be drunk
on small minded hate
with a sense of inequity so vast
that there is no possible way
to envision the apathy chasm spanned.

I do not want to live
where metal detectors
are poetry reading mandates
and the unanswered calls
of free verse and formed rhymes
point out unrequited love
and its accompanying heart ache.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Political Tourists

At every protest
I expect to see Jay
acting up in the front row
or at the podium
just like he did so often
between his AIDs diagnosis
and eventual death
back when my temper and rage
spent itself quietly inside me,
and not let loose
on the out-of-state maniacs
trying to block Cynthia
and other young women
from entering the clinic
I escorted then to
so they might learn their choices
and educate themselves
on which course their consciences
would draft them to complete.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Blue Poem

Blue grosbeak.
Blue house.
Solemn lady
sings the blues
under the bright sky.

My face wears
it’s azure downfall.
Time for my ultra-
marine sobs
to connect me
with the enigmatic ocean.

Saphire shelled beetle
struggles across
our blue-black-sands

Blue berry.
Blue mist aloft
when a rogue
wave crashes
the breakers.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dibs On Wrigley Field

The vicious wound of our break up
scabbed into a velvet ant.

It scurried across the new typeface
you designed to write your next chapter.

Anger’s loud yawp, kept loneliness at bay
long enough for paint to dry

on white apartment walls
ready for sanity’s scrawl and height-line measures.

Our friends took sides according to taste—
the craft beers

you stocked in your new fridge
compared to the ones I stocked in mine.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I did not think pregnantly
during my pause.

When a week’s passage
finally hit me,

I transposed the letters in baby
into all possible combinations

on the hypothesis one would raise
the shadow-cloaked mountain

skyward into the sunshine
so the tide might be spied

on the ocean’s gulf coast
where beaches stand void of people

afraid of virus contraction,
knowing intubation

stifles a patient’s
fearful moans.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Now you know
I was once
for owning
one more
than I
could juggle
without dropping
while my dog
barked warning
that the church
pounded nails
out of scrap iron
ready to pierce
my flesh
as a refresher
for the rows
and rows
of warehoused

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney