Fiction Tool

Paul is old enough
that every Wednesday
he practices
being a mourner.

He finds strangers’ funerals
for his practice sessions
and makes up connections
if anyone asks.

Paul’s friends
are few enough in number
that no year could lose
more than one.

He finds loving
the unknown deceased
both fiction
and odd comfort.

Paul employs this fiction
with the live people he meets
in hopes he will make
a few more friends.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul was never needed
as long as I was there.
We could have folded him up
placed him in the cedar chest.
We could have set him up
in a storage unit.

He sat detached from us
though close in proximity.
He was more translucent
than invisible.
He gathered up
whatever we wasted.

Paul stood still
as a corn stalk.
His body bent
toward our sorrow.
He seamlessly replaced me
when I passed.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul can’t sleep.
He sits up and the covers slump to his lap.
He grabs Peter Rabbit.
He is not too old for this comfort, though he is old.

He listens to the wind whip around the house,
to the heavy rain banging the swamp-cooler,
to the roof’s runoff trickling into the cistern,
to the house’s creaks and groans.

Paul thinks of his childhood, growing up outside Chicago.
How snow was always on the ground at Christmas.
How Halloween was safe for trick-or-treating kids.
How the movies were twenty-five cents a ticket.

He remembers the lake park and its swing sets.
How he would swing back and forth.
How he would swing up and down.
How he loved the timeless pendulum motion.

Paul falls back to sleep.
He still holds onto Peter Rabbit.
The covers remain off of his shoulders.
The swing’s rising and falling matches his breath.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Phantom Canyon Road

I drove a road too narrow
up a mountain
that crossed
fifteen cold streams.

The speakers
pushed Bach
into the cabin
and out the windows
to tumble
into the rocks
and clouds

There was
no way around
the mountain goat
who won
the staring contest
with the jeep’s

When I opened
the door
to shoo it away
my first step
would have been
my last
if I had taken it.

The goat
drank its fill
and moved
up the rock face.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


1987 was the last time I drove Phantom Canyon Road (Colorado Tourism Link) up the south side of mountains leading to Pike’s Peak and into the town of Cripple Creek. I am sure they have made improvements on the road over the years. Back then wide or tall vehicles could not take the road because low and narrow tunnels prevented forward movement. There were few turnouts to allow passing and turning around was impossible once you started upward.

After A Rain

I noticed the ground never felt a drop.
The dictionary has a word to describe that phenomena
but I am at a loss for its first syllable.

I wondered if the parched vegetation
found this funny and laughed
with the reassembling clouds.

Heat rose from the granite.
It bent the air and formed its own
dry rainbows with dust.

It is silly of me to bicycle old US highways
across the continental divide
under such conditions,

but nothing much will change
until next month and I wish
to be home in Albuquerque come Tuesday.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I am exhausted from digging graves
deep enough to plant onions
and potatoes without disturbing the dead come harvest.

I see cross hatched fields in shadow.
I see a baby crawl through a minefield.
I see crows grow fat no matter how quickly I dig.

As the traumas displace a subliminal ocean
I begin to see the odd beauty
of a four hole button

half crushed to jagged fragments,
the other half solid beyond expectation.
How frayed threads hold the button to the coat.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

No One To Share Them With

I want to tell you
how sweet potato fries are beautiful.

They must be crisp though,
not sodden with oil.

I wore my mind out trying to discern
the exact color of their crispy edges.

I tried painting it,
but found that deep yellow-orange illusive.

My eyes believe sweet potato fries
have magic runes burned into them.

With no one to share them with
the basket remains one-quarter full.

As in all things, only excess
diminishes the glory of consumption.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Thought The Flue Was Open

Lover, your jukebox repertoire
inserts platters of sound
into my open mind.
I have no way to close it.

Please sit in a chair
and eat sardines straight from the can
and give me respite
from your cat-scratch voice.

The clouds of song
obscure my free lunch
I know is somewhere
on the table in front of me.

You seem to be unappreciative
of my devotion to meals,
especially the alluring spheres
of Braeburn apples.

My, how this room is overcast
with all your trebles
by day and by night,
by land and by sea.

Lover, this obscuring
of our shared house-scape
is merely a smoke screen
to hide alluring tragedies.

Moments from taking shape
without real discussion
of a pleasingly
fatal mistake.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fluorescent Screams

So many people translate
the english language into outrage
without really hearing
any of the words
or parsing for meanings
other than what they know
a statement must mean.

When house cats are used
as suicide bombers
it will proves the new Visigoths
are bloodying the earth
with roman stones
and burned law books
releasing those tying straps
to feline torsos.

The new Buddha
sits under a piñon tree.
He listens to the magpies’ chorus
while eating peaches.
And wild horses struggle,
skin rib-bone stretched
and salt-crusted nostrils
seek water.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Remind Me

Paul wore a red and yellow striped fish upon his head.
It was once a paper mâché piñata.

He wore it on morning-afters when his head throbbed
as if it were hit many times by bat swinging kids.

He wore it to signal his friends to be wary,
since his tolerance was infinitely shorter than infinite.

When Paul entered the cafe, they knew from the fish
to bring him coffee before he ordered.

In this state of mind he feared the giant hedgehog,
Spiny Norman, but conceded he might be

placed outside of a Monty Python sketch, then wondered
if he needed to wear pearl earrings and a dowdy frock

to be his best at a cafe breakfast
of scrambled eggs and a double chocolate cake slice.

Paul wore a red and yellow striped fish upon his head.
He asked people for the name of Dudley Do-Right’s horse.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney