Ensemble

A torn umbrella
tumbleweeds away.

A styrofoam cup
loop de loops and barrel rolls.

The rain drops sizzle
on the two lane blacktop.

Soaked red canvas shoe,
still bright, appears forlorn.

Blue gum wad
sticks to white edge line.

The clouds part.
Two trees rain crows.

A storm tossed man huffs
and puffs the diner door open.

The hostess refuses him
a seat at the counter.

His one bare foot
disqualifies entry.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ready Or Not

The air shows no signs
of human progress.

Bird tongues wag
stone throws at bones.

This ninety-eight degree sunshine
is more than symbolism.

Each raindrop that fails
to hit the ground

never changes the color or temperature
of heated stones.

Familiar birds have flown away
and new ones have replaced them.

There is the option to move north.
They never imagined all of us.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sweet Land Of Liberty

Our military camps have no names now.
They hold their breath.

Soldiers form a center line
for politicians to choose sides.

The parade ground is a warm blanket
thrown over cold shoulders.

A steamy day suffocates
onlookers in the grandstands.

The narcotics of despair
blister the service branches.

There are no extraordinary renditions
of Portland protesters that we know of.

A red rush of toxic words
requires a translator

as we pull the dirty bandaid
off of old wounds.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Time Out

The church sanctuary
was overcrowded
by a few people over-thinking
every word of the prophets
and seers.

Their thoughts kept
bumping into the minister’s ego
as he stood before the alter
and pontificated,
though this branch
did not acknowledge the pontiff.

This jumble of miscommunication
caused mass forgetfulness
of priorities and well wishes—
tongue tied, it was
unable to shout One if by land!
Two if by sea!

See, all our signals got crossed up.
Our war to become our better angels
took a time out and napped.
We woke, like little children,
with an emotional reset
to the default of kindness.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Low Frequency

Some people who grow up never feeling loved
remain in motion afraid to stop.

While others turn into stone
unable to take the first step of any journey.

Paul walked into a church, lit a candle
and sought refuge from his loneliness.

It was not the image of Christ on the cross
or the story of salvation that he treasured.

It was the shadow of the cross
in the wavering candle light against the wall

and how in this heavy solitude no one asked him
for something he did not have to give.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Tapered Block

Some capitalist song
sang my friends into enemies.

Maybe I should not blame the song
but my lack of attention

to what my friends truly value
or to my own ability for self-deception.

I saw greed wedge forth
a golden pig-god rooting around in the dirt—

disguised as Survival of the Fittest
with all of its frightened violence and rationalizations.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

First Thing

Paul woke up.
The remnants of a hot dog bun
littered his sheets and blankets.
He looked into the bathroom mirror
and asked, What happened?

His mirror image
launched into a long story
about his golden retriever
leaping out of an airplane,
the parachute not opening,
the impact destroying
the church steeple
and how he ate his sorrow
all hours of the night.

Paul stood slack jawed
as his mirror image
finished off the story
with gory embellishments
too terrible to hear.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shrouding The Doorstep

A running narrative
curled past the curb
with minimal motion
and fresh history
of the children
beyond the railroad tracks
and its
telephone lines
with ever present
crows mumbling
untranslated elegies
for the eyes that look
at the green failure
and witness
the unwillingness
of plantation mentality
to stock haloes,
since they are earned
and not sold.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Tuesday

It was not odd that I saw a ghost.
I see them regularly.
Hear them as well.

It was odd that this ghost
was a Frankish knight
who spoke an inconsistent

mash of middle German and Latin,
whose phrases hung
three steps from the edge of English.

He wandered into the kitchen
and stopped at the espresso machine
mistaking it, I think, for an altar.

On his knees he spoke a most beautiful prayer
that burned with orthodoxy
and filled the room with heavy incense.

Who am I to glimpse his avoidance?
His empty battlefield wandering
in search of the un-given confession before death?

In empathy, I quickly recited scores
of angels and apostles
and, finally, directions to St. Peter’s.

I offered him a string of Mardi Gras beads,
to use as a temporary rosary,
and suffered a torrential flood of Hail Marys.

I walked through St. Peter’s ambulatory
to the radiating chapel
of the Mother of God, glowing in her blue cloak.

The ghost unburdened himself,
then dissipated, the colorful beads
dropped to the polished marble floor.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Believable

My wallet has two dollars.
My pocket has eighty-seven cents.

Not quite enough to run away from home forever.
But enough to run away for the day.

My bicycle navigates trails and back streets
thirty miles to a lake park with herons at the shoreline.

A photographer documents wildlife’s adjustments
to encroaching urbanization.

I ask the burger clerk if she enjoys
being the poorly paid instrument of unrestrained capitalism?

She stares blankly to a spot three feet behind my head.
Do you want fries with that?

An hour after watching folks picnic at the park,
I head home with three hours before supper

to work out a believable story of my day,
knowing suppertime conversation requires it.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

By the time I was ten years old, I started to adventure on my bicycle riding farther and farther from home each school-less day. A favorite place to go was the Morton Arboretum five miles from our home. When I was that age, the outskirts of my hometown still had cornfields and farm silos attached to barns. Over the next seven years, Chicago expanded outward over the farms. I kept riding farther and farther west to reach visible farms, woods, and lakes.