Groove and Tongue

The street narrows.
Its black surface absorbs all light.
A channel forms a center line that pulses.

The light flows east to west in the morning.
Gravity has no effect.
At high noon it pauses then reverses course.

Three black city rats exit the sewer.
They sprint through stalled traffic.
They stop to drink—turn luminescent blond.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mother and Dog

In all the years since my mother’s death
she has not once visited me in ghostly form.

I take this as a sign she is at peace
and the hereafter is more like a craft project than a poem.

I know I was not easy to raise.
My rascally brain did not appreciate syntax or logic.

She was like a window shade kept down
to keep a house plant from the sun.

I grew anyway—tall, thin and awkward.
It took befriending a dog for me to fill out in mind and body.

Time treated mother and me the same in spite of our differences.
Our similarities. Our love of mac & cheese.

When I picture her in my mind
I hold her hand when we cross the street.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


We sought to liberate the slave
from the cruelness
of sun, field and lash

but did not consider
the eternal enmity
of former owners in defeat.

We could have swept
the Old Dominion state
clean into the ocean.

Cleared it
of plantation owners
and the white working class.

The radical Republicans
desired something
akin to that response.

Mr. Lincoln desired
a new testament ending
rather than an old one.

So we honored
the terms Grant delivered
and filled no more coffins.

But it was we
who suffered future retribution
for simply breathing free air.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

End of Town

Paul stops walking.
His feet halted
by a pink pacifier on the ground.

He stands in the middle of a grassy field.
The field is punctuated with wild flower blooms.
The trail is one body wide.

Paul scans three hundred and sixty sight lines.
No human beings are visible.
A wailing echo exists at the edge of his hearing.

He bends at the knee and waist.
He tilts his head closer to the pacifier.
It recites familiar lines.

A. A. Milne’s poem.
J. J. M. M. W. G. Du. P….

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Window AC Unit for the Pigeons To Sit

Paul lives on the second floor
above a cafe in the middle of the block.

Half of the parking is taken up
by abandoned and stripped cars.

His door is between the two rooms
of the cafe below.

A used bookstore resides at the corner.
A natural medicine shop at the other corner.

The wooden steps creak when he ascends
and kaerc when he descends.

His bed room is above the cafe’s ovens.
Each morning he wakes to the smell of hot bread cooling.

His apartment has a single bare light
he never turns on.

At night street lights paint his walls and ceilings
through windows without curtains.

His bed is four yoga mats on the floor
and a natural canvas throw pillow.

A kettle sits on the stove.
Loose leaf tea is in a tin to be packed in a thimble.

His two dark brown thrift shop mugs
display a Roosevelt Elk and Olympic National Park.

Each mug is repaired with crack lines
in different locations.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wall Mounted Heat Pump Pigeon Roost

Lori’s two bedroom apartment
belongs to her since she owns the building.

It is fully furnished
with a cherry wood dining table

that never seats six
let alone eight with the extension.

Each Friday she purchases
a half dozen bagels.

She places lox on the bagels
with a smear of cream cheese.

Her bedroom is right out of a style magazine
that specializes in wood furniture.

Monday nights she hears the poetry
at the cafe’s open mic

from her bed above the performance.
She listens until the slam winner is announced.

Her other bedroom is two large screens
attached to mega-computers

and three bookcases of technical manuals
trouble shooting and coding books.

She secretly owns half the houses on the block
unaware she is the feared gentrifier.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Broken Mirror Reflects the Canyon Sun

Paul boards a car like a boat.

It means he hops a gap
and raises sails.

It means the wind powers
his vehicles.

Lori scatters virtues on the ground.

It means she walks
through floored pine needles.

It means there is nothing hidden
about her power.

Paul disrupts the shade.

It means his shadow glides across the court
as he soars for a slam dunk.

It means there was a mulberry tree
he once stripped of fruit.

Lori counts backward to her sixteenth birthday.

It means she put her foot down
on the gas pedal.

It means she sees the fractals
that spiral inward.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sipping From a Bent Straw

Lori starts to say Sandia
aloud, over a cocktail
aswirl with questions
about a lost spelling bee.

She tilts her chin upward
so her lower jaw
raises her lower lip
to close the gap to her upper lip.

Lori is not from the mountains
but from the rift we call a valley
that supports the Rio Grande
while waiting for the bottom to drop out.

She parks and walks into fast food joints
never utilizing drive-thrus.
She refuses to attend strip malls
in a city rife with asphalt.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Why and Wherefore

I appeared
in the afterlife
to my parents
as a character
on a daily television
soap opera
about a rustic town
named Mill Creek
where the rocky creek bed
looks more like
the colored pebbles
in the bottom
of a fishbowl.

I was a young doctor
who used
special surgical tools
to remove
the scorpions
that produced
stinging words
from people’s throats
and employed CRISPR
to splice Libra
or Gemini genes
to any infant Scorpio’s
double helix.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney