With Chocolate

Hear me broom
the porch steps
clear of leaves
and observe
the futility
as the desert winds
swirls them back.

My waking cup
this morning
is Cabernet Sauvignon,
sipped while sitting
on the porch glider,
my feet propelling me
gently fore and back,
with brown leaves
crunching under my shoes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Early Times

Early Times
Paul’s head
so pleasantly
he desired
to be nowhere else
for the first time
in a long time
that seemed
to be another
lifetime ago
back when
his embrace
of Martha
was new
and isolated
a great comfort
in just sitting

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript: For those of you who do not know, Early Times is a brand of whiskey.


When Paul was a baby
he cried, Mother! Mother! Mother!
only when she slept
under a night
made darker than usual
by a new moon—
which is when she slept
the deepest sleep.

On those nights
I became mother
crawling from under
my own bedsheets
to deal with
whatever made him
cry out
and hoped
it was not
the monster
I placed under his bed
three months before.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Place A Finger

I have worked hard
to feel something
that resides below
the rage and wreckage
of this pandemic year.

I know what it means
to wake each morning
and wonder if today
my luck runs out
in a madcap state
in a war of wills
amid the discarding
of the concept
the public good.

So few today believe
they owe our country
for our decades of peace
and prosperity—
except in war.

As the air grows cold
and flurries fall
every sneeze and cough
sends minor tremors
through my spine
and worries me
until my breath clears.

The isolation
creates an aloneness,
which is different
than loneliness.
This solitude
has spawned
an unfamiliar
feeling for which
I reach about
for a name.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Trick Of Light

speaking for the dead,
a reflection
of a musical road
opens in the starry sky
to the sound
of rubber
on gravel.

See the split second
animal lives
as species struggle
to answer the call
of the twisted snake
inside them.

Might as well
eat both feet
up to the ankle
to form a human

Tell the dog
this act
is symbolic
and she is safe
even when she hears
jump start
the wild hunt.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Some bells say,
Time to come to church,

while other say,
Time for your next class.

Some bells tell time
and tell you nothing else.

Other sound an alarm.
Others peal victory.

One said, Liberty!
but it rings no more.

The Carol of the Bells
is Paul’s favorite.

All that hand-ringing
so appropriate.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Driving To Raton Pass

The highway north
out of Santa Fe
fishhooks south
before going north
past Las Vegas
into that lonely stretch
of the least traveled
section of interstate
in America

and I think
God bless
those truckers
for keeping
the asphalt
on this section
of earth
otherwise the sun
would float
all those dust particles
and only
those wagon ruts
from the Santa Fe Trail
would be left.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

For A Change

The point guard
not laughing it up
with his teammates
at a contrived table for twelve
looks through a girl
and out a window
to the lone cloud
in the bluest sky.

He ignores
his green chile cheeseburger
while his eyes trace
the Sandia ridge
and his mind formulates
how to get up there.

It is impossible to say
why he is not engaged
with the victory celebration
of a basketball game
that propelled his team
to the state finals
and, for a change,
I invent no Maybes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Angel, you live in the holy light
and we live in your shadows.

Please dance so your movement
lets a little light through

and I can see when the light glints
off my daughter’s sparkly halo.

I scrub the kitchen floor
and this corner is too dark for me to tell

if I got it Clean as a whistle
so I may prove I have done nothing immoral.

Angel, thank you for folding your wings
and getting down on your hands and knees

to help me buff this linoleum beautiful
as in Cleanliness is next to godliness.

But Angel, you spread that darkness
over my shiny linoleum floor—

the shadowy shape my dog casts
carrying a dead squirrel to her dish.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fifty Six Degrees

You cannot trust Bethany
to tell the truth
about her past trauma.

She has thirty years of practice
preventing these memories
from breaking through

to disrupt her day
filled with shopping, laundry
and three kids.

But the trauma ferments
in the dark of ceiled oaken casks
deep in the mind’s cellar.

With no vent set in the wood
to release the carbon dioxide
the barrel hoops strain

to keep the staves in place.
A sour smell occupies
Bethany’s nose.

That is what she says
in halts and stops
to our semicircle of faces.

And we know this too.
This aging darkness tucked away
under vaulted ceilings.

Cask after cask
awaiting the steward to tap
the wood

or for an explosion
that shatters the barrel staves
and twists and mangles the hoops.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney