Lori Left Months Ago

When serendipity brings us together
on a distant city’s mass transit platform
our surprise is complete
and we hug longer than customary
even for friends long separated.

Her train leaves the platform
with her staring at me
six inches from my face
while we talk and talk and talk
about all the things
we never said before
because close proximity
affected the risk-reward calculation
of speaking our minds.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dry

As I sat in front of the space heater
under the bathroom sink
and its fan blew air past red-orange coils
my eyes tried to capture the instant
water droplets evaporated
from the surface of my skin
but my eyes seemed slow
since each droplet was there
and then gone without subtlety
instead of a gradual reduction of size
into nothingness.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Memorial Day

Thirty years to the day
after we spread dad’s ashes
in the cornfields of his youth

he stands in front of me
even after I pinch myself
to be sure I am not dreaming.

He is the younger version of himself
that I never met
being born twenty years into his marriage.

His lips move but no sound.
I ask him to repeat himself.
His lips move but no sound again.

I ask if he can bring Albuquerque rain.
He shakes his head.
I hear the mechanism click

that turns the water on
to the drip system in the garden
for butterfly bushes and bee balm.

He shakes his head.
He laughs soundlessly
and passes through the kitchen sink

to the outdoor barbecue
on Memorial Day.
I do not think chemists

who made World War II bombs
bigger and more explosive
are commemorated on this day.

In the Chicagoland house of my youth
we never had a barbecue
so why would he start now?

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Retainer

Paul grew up in America.
That is a lie.
The idea he grew up.

He is a poet.
As a poet he was asked
to translate the bible into plain English.

Paul’s skill at poetry was brevity.
He distilled the bible
down to as few words as possible.

It took him close to a year
as American snow
came and went and came again.

Love your neighbor as yourself.
Do not do to others
what you do not want done to yourself.

The people who hired Paul were angry
he did not mention God once
or Jesus and the twelve disciples.

They refused to pay him
for this one double spaced
typed page.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Softship

It appears to the naked eye
that all religions are self defeating.

Loving people is as painful
as the doctor’s stinging slap

across a baby’s bottom
so the child breathes, thus lives.

I never prayed in church
because there was too much static.

Prayer is an act of listening
not asking to be delivered from pain.

I listened to the pain love caused
and determined a path forward.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Tank

Lori looks at the white undershirt
draped over a kitchen chair.

She knows that style of shirt
was often referred to as a wife-beater—

is now marketed as an A-shirt
or athletic shirt.

It wears a blood stain (two droplets)
where the cloth would cross

the the top of the left pectoral muscle
if worn properly.

Lori decides to put the shirt on
so takes her pajama top off

and reaches for
her Calvin Klein waif persona

even though there is nothing waif-like
about her body.

She bites her bottom lip
as she critiques the fit of her reflection

in the kitchen window
as a flock of sparrows pass through her.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

post script

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans. Family will join us for burgers on the grill, coleslaw and watermelon. And (as happens every year) our neighbors will blast fireworks into the sky all night long, punctuating our sleep with spangled stars and loud noises.

Happy Monday to those of you who are not residents of the USA.

Parasite

Paul holds a fist full of crickets.
He fears they are suicidal.

They launched themselves
from the grassy bank

into the lazy stream
filled with trout.

The fish he snatched
the crickets away from

gives him an accusatory stare
and he worries

his saving the crickets
condemns the fish to hunger.

One cricket squeezes through Paul’s fingers
and launches itself into the current.

The fish gobbles up the cricket
then swims away from Paul’s empty hand.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

An interesting TED talk by Ed Yong about parasites in nature is at this link.

Below the News Helicopters

Our Friday ritual was to meet up
and walk the bosque
down by the Rio Grande
and stop for a late breakfast
at Flying Star cafe.

A fire burned a reported thirty acres
on both sides of the river
and the smoke made our walk
untenable.

We watched two fire companies
put out hot spots
on a computer screen
as our drone rose high enough
over the backyard to view the action.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Closed With I Love You

My daughter’s voice
tumbled zeros and ones
into new configurations
on a phone company server bank.

Hearing her voice
thirty-one years after her death
droned my chest
with fluctuating neural signals.

Those skipped heartbeats
I will never get back.
My extremities blued
as I listened to her message.

The closing beep
signaled back to normal
at an unconscious level
of mental processing.

I smacked myself on the forehead
for automatically hitting delete
instead of replay
to hear her voice again.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

It Comes

When Paul sits outside at night
with dark spread everywhere
he pretends a window
keeps the bugs away from him.

He set a mirror against the south wall
at an angle to view the moon
to double the number
of reflections of the sun’s light.

Though we stay up all night
it needs to be minus six degrees
before dew forms
on the grass or our bodies.

The neighbor’s cat
is surprised and perplexed
to find us occupying the chair cushions
it likes to sleep on.

Paul posts an invitation
for the sun to rise over the Sandias
and delivery is guaranteed
by this morning.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney