She Lies Absent

Paul triangulates
the girl of his dreams
to be in the shadow
of a witness sycamore
on the opposite side
of a creek run red.

She wears a dress
the color of turned sycamore leaves
and holds purple prairie aster
that competes
with the last of the dandelions
for the bees’ attention.

He must cross a bridge
made of aged white stone
against a rush of ghosts
groaning and wailing
amid the thunderous canon
and volleys hurled against them.

Upon seeing the color bearer drop
and old glory fall
the woman raises her arm to her brow,
in the manner of Victorian women,
slumps to the ground,
and disappears beneath the leaves.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lichen Crusted Stones

At seven years old
I imagined
the Bad Behavior Cemetery
was where
the school principal
buried all the wicked kids
he hit too hard
with his wooden paddle.

I placed it next to
the post office
where parents
sent postcards
and letters
to their lost children
who waited out purgatory
for judgement day.

Early All Halos day,
after refusing
to collect candy
I snuck in there
to search
for my brother’s
since my mother
did not know
where he was buried
and I wanted
to see it.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I restrain
the most difficult emotions
in a holding cell
until circumstances change
and I check
for bodily injuries
to determine
if drawn blood
changes equations.

Later I release
compressed feelings
and view them
like a newsreel
before allowing them
to engage
with my body.

Even then
I may overestimate
my capacity to handle
concepts and prejudices
desires in conflict with reality
and crumble to the ground
as my knees buckle
from the tremors.

While on the floor
I search for any word
to load into oration’s shotgun
so I might return fire
even if my words hit only
the ghost of my interactions.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Up From The Tidewater

I walk the sawgrass
adjacent to rounded
civil war earthworks
where a shore battery
endured a long bombardment
from the Union fleet
and with each slow step I take
I let my toes feel the soft ground
as if they can detect
shell casings embedded
in the sandy soil
and whether that ordnance
is expended
or remains live
after a century and a half.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

How We Bend

A dozen drops
dot the window.
A low yield cloud.
A dark teasing.
Mocking thunder.
Skull echo chamber.
Wine glass on the table
moves millimeters.

The phone rings once.
Election season.
Poling questions.
Unexpressed selections.
Seven weeks out.
Weight of lies.
Hands ready to blacken
little ovals.

My pandemic face hides loss.
A count to three.
Remorse springs
from long silences.
The dead might as well
have been disappeared
by the Administration.
Hands rough
from washing.
The grocery’s spare shelves.
My dog does not
recognize me
in my black mask.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul occupied
the downtown
business district
filling it with
arcane rules
no ordinary person
could understand.

See the sentences
take form
like chain-links
and bar
the entry or exit
from those tall buildings
and their dark

The only way out
is nineteen-twenty-nine
through an open window
with a concrete
landscape below
ready to meet
the great crash
after the market
adjusts for the truth
of current conditions
and tumbles
when the tolerance
of greed breaks
and workers
march upward.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Moon Over Syntax

Paul considered Dora’s elbow
as it stuck out
with her hands cupped
behind her head
as she reclined upon pillows.

His gaze drifted
across the bridge of her nose
to the wine glass
set upon a saucer
with scone crumbs
left there from morning.

He brought himself back
to their slim dialogue
but paid more attention
to how his hand felt
the gentle rise of her breath
from where it lay
diagonal across her belly.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


In the forest
an idle car
the dew
that slips
past paint
into its dents
and dings
to spring
rust into life
so oxidation
may slowly
the steel
rimless tires
and upholstery
to be covered
by wind
blown dirt
and leaves
to the berry bushes
that grow
from the seeds
the wind
and birds
drop off
or others
in the nooks
and crannies.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Breaking Point

The smiling woman
petting the goat
looks exhausted
from working
the fields
with few tools
and being up
all night
to throw
to hit the fox
that enters
the chicken coop
between the eyes
and hear
the skull

copyright @ 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


We never
reveal our tipped wings.

our right to bayonet charges.

A Cooper’s Hawk
dismantles a struck dove.

Right there
fright feathers finally land.

Incomplete statistics
rarely have true meaning.

You prefer raw data.
I prefer a glass of cabernet.

We move
toward and away from each other.

We have sex
on a departures time table.

A colored sunset
reminds you of the hawk’s bloody beak.

I want to feel
her talons latch on.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney