The 11th and 12th Corps’ Movement

Lori stands in the library
in a quiet row
among patient books.

She stares at a dusty book
its plastic yellowed
Railroads in the Civil War, by Clark.

She wonders who reads such topics.
Who writes such esoterica.
And decides no one and Clark.

Lori goes to a computer terminal.
She looks up the book’s history—
it has never been checked it out.

It arrived as new in two-thousand-one
and survived the periodic purges
to make room for something new.

She wonders if she checks it out
will that cause the librarians to notice it
and remove it from the stacks.

She wonders if it feels lonely
aches to held and read
or if it is happy avoiding the shredder.

Lori adds it on top
of her two reserved best sellers
that finally descended to her hold number.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Under a Palm He Reads

Paul kicked a ball.
It roll across the parking lot
toward the beach.

A woman banged
two cooking pans.
Seagulls took flight.

A man standing
in benediction pose
blessed the changing tide.

Paul kicked the ball
farther down the beach
past crushed beer cans.

The woman chased
sand pipers
and the seagulls returned.

The tide floated
eleven tossed wafers
and diluted the poured wine.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


I cannot sleep because I am tall.
Vibrant thinking shakes me awake.

Within twenty years I’ll be dead
with enough failures to make me wise.

I hope wisdom displays itself in my poems—
at least a few of them.

My old desk was too short
but had a drawer full of words I could draw from.

My new desk is the right height
but has no drawers.

Odd that digital clocks tick just as loud
as the Black Forest cuckoo clock in my childhood home.

I think of the world without me.
Nothing changes.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Thrown Rock Broke a Pane

Kilometers of dusk went on strike.
That part of the sky went straight from day to night.

A spider spun a web spanning the vacancy
and tried to pull dusk together.

It succeeded in stretching dusk a few meters
then asked for a payment of five blue bottle flies.

None of this would have happened
if the promised land was not constricted with barbwire.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

You Don’t Have Tattoos

Humidity formed a thumb
that squished me
like an ant
on a Savannah sidewalk.

Your pumice breath
scraped all the calcified kisses
off my lips
before you planted
a new one on me.

Some days
the only difference
between cops
and gangsters
is the blue uniform.

The war never stopped.
Its remnants are visible
at Fort Pulaski.
The war is economic now—
fueled by prejudice.

I am fine
with brushing your hair
but I will scrub
the pots and pans
only if you cook.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Couple Blueberries Next Time

A magpie sat on the white horse without a saddle.
The horse ambled toward the gate.

My appearance at the muddy pasture
meant carrots in spring or apples in fall.

The horse arrived and accepted my gift
one hoof in snow, the others in puddled snow melt.

The magpie watched from the horse’s back.
Three carrots vanished in loud munching.

The magpie flew to a fence rail
approached my hand and vest pocket, head cocked.

My pocket was empty of beetles, flies
caterpillars, spiders, worms and leatherjackets.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


Your spent bullet casing earrings
were a dead giveaway to your NRA membership.

I am glad you have not proved
a woman is just as capable of mass shootings as a man.

I find it odd that the brass is stamped with crucifixes—
onward Christian soldier.

As a woman you have endured hardship enough
to claim that title.

You strut your dogma at the counter-protests
and hope the TV cameras catch the glint in your eye.

Ravens follow you around the business district
confident your hands burn to kill.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mothers and Children

An elephant blocks the sun.
Only as long as it takes for her to walk past.

A baby grasps her tail.
It eyes me as I remain sitting on the bus stop bench.

Soon come orangutans, flamingos
and many non-carnivorous species.

A zookeeper at the end of line
informs me they are on a school field trip.

They visit Lew Wallace Elementary today
to observe children learning their letters.

I observe them wait patiently
and in good order

for the traffic light to change
at Sixth and Lomas before crossing.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Storm Theory

Every time it rained cats and dogs
the storm clouds left out a few breeds
as if there was a contract
designating days off for Dachshunds
Cornish Rexes and so on.

Lori was particularly worried
she would be walking Faith, her chow-shepherd mix
when some cloud would come along
and take her dog up into the sky
just so it could fall elsewhere.
Then there would be doggy return fees
for shipping and handling.

Since she was pretty sure Tuesday
was the designated day off for chow-shepherd mixes
she took extra long walks
past all manner of gardens and meadows
and forests at the edge of town.

The one time a cloud did whisk up Faith
it seemed an eternity before the phone rang to inform Lori
Faith fell on Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade
and a nice couple would take good care of her
until Lori could make the drive to Coolidge Corner.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney