After he spilled off his bicycle
broke his nose and cracked a few ribs
Paul fired his guardian angel.

She packed a set of towels and washcloths
as if his house was a hotel
where she paid cash.

Paul discovered mice moved in
to take her place
declaring his foundation the promised land.

The mice built bonfires
in the basement floor’s potholes
to roast a feral cat they trapped

with the help of two crows
and a barn owl
with no barns for seventy-five miles.

Paul’s guardian angel returned
the towels and washcloths
and a concert t-shirt she liked to sleep in.

When she melted into the sunlight
he surmised she was twelve-stepping
her way through fallen angels anonymous.

Occluded Fluidity

This warped spine
knots the ribs
to constrict a sound
the voice of pain
the body crying
and the echo
of a thousand
ossified cracks
growing larger.

A doctor strides
from the hallway
into the examination room
a hundred research articles
harnessed to move
at the slightest motion
of his fingertips.

After a skin deep look
he states I require
better colour
with his English accent
adding weight
to the brush stroke
that applies
a primordial orange
over thoracic vertebrae.

The crystals
lodged in my joints
pop like notes
out of a calliope
in a circus wagon
drawn by a team
of Clydesdales
to a curtained building
where the winged creatures
about the entrance
are severely weathered
and it is difficult to say
if they be gargoyles
or angels.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

If At First You Don’t Succeed

The dead come to Paul
for him to teach them love
so they may pass
heaven’s gate.

He is poorly equipped
to teach such lessons,
but promised his mother
to do his best.

The first lesson
was a mountain walk
among the aspens
to a place above the tree line.

They spent the night
and watched the fireworks
of the Leonid asteroids
streak the sky

which gave way
to thin lines of clouds
that thickened
and then snow fell.

Since the dead
did not feel cold
they were not affected
by dropping temperatures.

But Paul pulled
his coat close around his body
and so he pulled
the dead close too.

What little warmth he had
he gave to the dead
thinking the disparity
would cause wings to sprout.

Snow angels was as close
as the dead came to growing wings.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The dead that haunt me
do so as angels
sent by God to assist
my growth
in all things human.

When the first arrived
I feared her dove wings
meant she might
fright-fly into a window
and break her neck.

But I learned
it was my mind
that placed wings
upon her back
and the attributes
of bird behaviors.

She exuded
a sustaining calm
that worked
like a pick
on the locked-off
parts of me.

The angels as a group
acted as a
flotation device
so the deep waters
would not drown me
as they flooded
my dreams.

The dead that haunt me
are light and vibrant
as if alive
in their prime
with moon-glow halos
and love
as their only tool.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The debate cut its teeth
on the stone wall
and a solitary fright feather
drifted down
on an uneven path
where a boy crossed over.
It caused him to halt
with one foot on each side,
believing a snow flake
had fallen.
He lifted his head skyward,
mouth opened
to catch flurries,
but saw in heaven’s
persistent window
the mirror of his grave
freshly dug in the thick
cemetery grass.
He thought of his mother
crying out in grief
and wished to comfort her
but could not
un-straddle himself
from the stone wall
to return to his adobe home
through the landscape
thick with cholla
and the thrashers
that nested in them.
In this straight
he appealed to his
guardian angel for release
from spiritual obligation,
this errand of solace
for the bereft.

copyright © 2021 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

Alternative Telling

At the inn,
Joseph and Mary
held white handkerchiefs
over their noses,
thus insulted
the crowded room
of farmers
and laborers.

I have a memory
of standing
with a clay pot
in my hand
and drinking
Egyptian beer,
knowing I was
bodily unclean
with sweat and dust
from a long day
shaping stone.

How silent the room became
as all eyes turned
to the newcomers.
We listened
as the innkeeper
sent them to the manger
to sleep with the animals
even though
there would be room enough
for the couple inside,
once we workers headed
for our homes.

Where were
the lord’s angels
with their trumpets
to blow down
the walls created
by our cold shoulders
while the innkeeper
cleared away empties
and tabulated
Ps & Qs?

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Three Rounds In

Lori offered me mushrooms
to aid me on my vision quest.

She also offered me her reading glasses
in case she misunderstood my meaning.

Lori tried to convince me
that tequila in large enough quantities

would provide me a supernatural experience.
She swore her house cat

received a masters degree in Native American studies
with a minor in Greek mythology.

She paid for the first round at The Filling Station
and slid her seat around to my side of the table.

Lori offered to shutter time
so I might develop x-ray vision to view angels.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I do not need to see
your wings open to the sun
to know the cleansing breath
of your initial feathery flap,
even if all you use it for
is to regain balance.

For all of the priest’s
Jerusalem rhetoric
he fails to see or feel
your plumed curve mid-hover
above the smoldering violence
in today’s thunderous voices.

All the charting of the sky
is for naught.

Tragic storm clouds brew
unforgotten bygones
into lightning strikes
that char the earth,
rip open the grassland
and set flame
to the grounded dead
that know their ash and dust
is the basis of eternity.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

North Face

Paul cries.
His tears strike his palms like rolling thunder.
Black motes pock his life line.

The clouded sky echoes his sentiment.
Lightning crowns the mountains.
Electric thorns seeking Jesus.

Paul’s nostrils fill with ozone,
the crisp of a struck ponderosa,
the sap seared to carbon.

He gasps for air between sobs.
He claws the sky seeking purchase.
This letting go shreds him.

Four now. The disassociations.
The angels between sheets of rain.
The snow angel of his prostrate flailing.

He throws rocks and fists at his other selves.
A puncher’s chance.
A knockout blow.

Trauma drunk. He staggers to the tree line.
Dark limbs embrace warmer air.
Alders peel the thunder of its crash.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney