Bent to the Task

Lori writes the word winter on paper.
She sketches snowflakes in the margins.

The flakes are not anatomically correct.
They lack symmetry.

Feeling odd, she sketches them
with five and seven points.

Each flake has speared
a long stem of winter grass.

A stiff wind does not blow them free.
Lori shivers from the wind chill.

With a ruler she draws angled shadows.
Straight lines make the scene unnatural.

Lori cannot trace the wind’s arc
or the circular motion of the swirling grasses.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

January Breakup

Paul hollowed his breath.
It felt like a cold foreclosure.
It was winter inside him.

There was no discontent.
There was snow.
There were sheltered places.

Paul took news out of context.
Out of thin air.
Out of turn at the turnstile.

He sharply exhaled snow.
It was all that was in there to go out.
It was cold white sparks.

Paul looked up into the infinite.
Snow fell from on high.
He inhaled deeply.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


after lightning
darkness deepened
to an unadjusted blindness
that turned the head
so one ear
took the full
bludgeoning force
of reverberating thunder
while the other ear
hid in the head’s
acoustic shadow.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Stone Chapel

In the stone chapel
winter presses white
upon colored windows.

Monks liberate their voices
eyes looking up
at corbeled vaults.

Their prayers do not pass
the snow covered roof
until they sing.

The chapel liberates its tongue
from millennial stone
and issues granite psalms

that presses the monks’ ears.
They vault to their feet
and flee the achingly lovely melody.

copyright 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Under the Patronage

Paul thought the monarch migration
was all the world’s royals
meeting in a small French town
on the Mediterranean Sea.

He imagined their numbers were thinned
by the long flight
as predators along the way
picked off stragglers.

They are now refugees
from peasant revolts
whose strength in numbers
outweigh the monarch’s strength in coin.

Paul thought about
habitual income inequality
and how poorer readers
flocked to Karl Heinrich Marx.

He imagined wide spread distribution
of the The Communist Manifesto
among the cotton slaves
held in the southern United States

during the Gold Rush year
and how the bloody uprising
would pre-date John Brown
and spread through northern sweatshops.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

While in Transit

Lori unhinged the house
folded it windows and all
then placed it into her hand bag.

As she walked
a loose shutter clacked
and banged with each step.

As she walked
all the leaves in the gutters
fell on to her path.

Lori walked until she was under
the perfect patch of sky
and then unfolded the house.

The house mouse
navigated this physics challenge
and raided the pantry.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

New Breed

On this green grass
live languages graze
like stock out to pasture
on the commons.

No one owns language
so it may not be used
as a medium of exchange
to pay your tab.

But there is a wealth
most readily acknowledged
in listening to Shakespeare
and Marlowe.

No one talks like that anymore.
We have not lost it
but set it aside
for cryptic reasons.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Old Photographs

Paul took a course on serenity
taught by the city’s last Holocaust survivor.

It had something to do with ironing
the wrinkles out of nightmares.

Sometimes the teacher was so serene
she became translucent.

Looking through her all Paul could see
was the green color of the blackboard

and calm and quiet
printed with yellow chalk.

Paul was better at practicing quiet.
Residual fears suffocated his words.

The final exam was to turn
a living color nightmare

into burnished sepia tones
then filing it in the archival past.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Show of Feathers

A flock of titmice
flit branch to branch
early in the day
before the three
neighborhood house cats
are let out to walk
the top of the cinder block wall
with the lattice fence
on their way
to the compost pile
compelled by their nature
to hunt fattened mice.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Recitation

It is nighttime.
I leave my body while it sleeps
and sit on the bed beside myself.

The digital clock’s red numbers display 12:53.
The motion sensor flips on an outside light.
The light comes through the blinds to brighten the walls.

There is the temptation to walk away from myself.
To go to the drawers and pack.
To take a trip.

My dreaming mind hikes Mount Wheeler under starlight.
My body remains in bed in Albuquerque.
My separate self is frozen in indecision.

I nod my head, consider the importance of remaining.
How I and this snoring body are a team.
Teamwork generates contentment.

I keep nodding.
The dream walk reaches Williams Lake.
I recite poems to night owls.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney