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In the middle of a prickly pear patch
stood an upright galvanized steel bucket
that wore the whitish patina of age.

In the bucket was water
about three quarters high in the hollow
and a Barbie doll floating face up.

The Barbie doll’s head
did not point toward magnetic north
but rotated slowly toward the west.

The outfit the doll wore
was Dia De Muertos Barbie’s dress
but on a blond Malibu Barbie body.

A magpie landed on the bucket’s lip
but could not reach the water
as it bent as far as it could into the bucket.

It hopped down onto the doll, but the doll
did not support the magpie’s weight
and the bird rose upward with perturbed flaps.

A girl holding a digital movie camera
removed herself from hiding
inside a large juniper bush.

She chased the magpie away.
She returned to her natural blind
and waited for smaller birds.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Close To The Edge Played In The Background

After the TV broke
and the odd monsoon arrived
I watched rain showers
float items down the street.

Pink plastic cup.
Stripped Barbie doll.
A torn love song.
And my neighbor’s melancholy.

When the rain stopped,
I turned to watch the cholla
swell before my eyes
though that is a trick of imagination.

All the Gold- and Rosefinches
returned to the damp nyjer seed
and jousted for landing
on the feeder’s mesh wall.

A dark-eyed Junco
with white tail feathers
got nicknamed
Tongue Depressor.

Tonight, I will tell my beloved
about an endangered species:
the Yellow Taxi I saw
returning neighbors home

from the holiday made longer
by mandated quarantines
and widely differing political views
constricted by No Shouting rules.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


For those of you who do not know Close to the Edge is a song by the rock group Yes. Here is a link to a YouTube playing of the song. Wikipedia has an entry on the song as well.

Confession: the poem is not about the song or any of its ascribed meanings, but is in the title because it was an ear-worm while writing this poem.

Artifactual Slumber Party

Annie finds herself in a room
floor to ceiling in blue tile mosaic.
An ancient emperor stares at her.
Of six scripts, she discerns six languages.
None of them a tongue she knows.
There are no doors.
Only archways opening into darkness.
Annie finds herself thinking of Dick & Jane
and apples, serpents and Genesis.
She looks up to inspect the domed ceiling.
Pizza, chocolate chip cookies,
molded Jell-o with fruit, sticks of Irish butter,
and bowls full of sweet and sour chicken
loaded with MSG descend
on clear plastic serving platters.
Annie deeply inhales the mixed aromas.
Nineteen grey burka dressed Barbie dolls
goose-step from the archway darkness,
each being pre-nineteen-sixty-five editions
of the iconic western beauty.
They play charades late into the night
snack, and share all they know about boys.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


The early versions of Barbie (before 1965) did not have knee joints. So their knees did not bend. To walk, they would goose-step from here to there.

Day Of The Dead Barbie

In America
to be a recognized minority
you must be numerous enough
to provide a market share
for a limited edition ethnic Barbie
to celebrate her income earning power
for El Segundo California’s
Mattel Incorporated
multinational toy manufacturing
to take production capacity
away from Match Box toy cars,
American Girl doll collections,
the Polly Pocket line,
Ever After High dolls,
Monster High dolls,
Hot Wheels toy cars,
Thomas & Friends line,
and the entire Barbie
figurehead fashion doll
from its brand inception
back in nineteen-fifty-nine.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


A little more than a month ago local TV news had a segment on Dia De Muertos Barbie and that a limited edition was coming out. Since Albuquerque is majority Hispanic this went over well. Actually it went over well with everyone I talked to since Day of the Dead celebrations are popular in New Mexico.

Day of the Dead Barbie link.

Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead) Wikipedia entry.

I like having a day set aside for remembering those who have passed. I find it much more satisfying than Halloween. This could be because I have passed the age of being able to eat sinful amounts of sweets without ill effects.

I think in modern times we forget that Halloween was called All Halo’s Eve. There was All Halo’s Eve, All Halo’s Day and All Saints Day. I do not remember whose tradition had it that the souls of the dead collected on earth and around All Halo’s day left this world for the next world. I will leave it to religious scholars to debate just what the next world is.

So, as the leaves fall, I remember friends and family who have passed during the year and over the years. It is not the only time I think about them, but I consciously bring up their faces from my memory and replay old encounters with them that make me smile.

Love & Light


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Barbie killed herself in her Malibu seaside residence.
The dead from a toxic spill littered the high tide line.
A crew worked in hazmat suits to clean the shore.
They worked unaware of Barbie’s similar indoor condition.

Barbie’s curtains were open and so was the screen.
The crew knew not to look in the windows of the rich and famous.
The crew knew they were supposed to be invisible.
Rainbow oils soaking the sand glinted in the morning sunlight.

Barbie’s position is as though she slid off the couch.
When she died she slid off the couch, so this makes sense.
One ankle is on the upholstery with only three toenails painted.
The red nail polish spilled from the bottle onto the white carpet.

Barbie was discovered later in the day.
The cleaning service found her and called the police.
The police put up bright yellow police tape.
The staticky police tape attracted blond hair strands from the carpet.

Other people around the world who died last night as well
are discovered and investigations begin where appropriate.
Most of those investigations do not have an absence of dolphins.
Most of those investigations do not have spilled nail polish.

Other people around the world who lost loved ones last night
might wonder why Barbie’s death is investigated
with greater effort and with more resources than the toxic spill
that killed millions of ocean creatures.

But this is Barbie! The popular doll in human form.
An icon of America. Of the American fantasy.
This case must be solved to reassure the masses.
Uniformed news sources will speculate for days.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul wonders why there is no Navajo Barbie.
He rolls and smokes shredded pages of Leaves of Grass.
He snacks on corned beef straight from the can.
He gulps Yoo-hoo chocolate drink with a haiku scrawled
in black Sharpie on the pealed-label glass.

Paul wonders why people who are larger than life, look life-sized?
He leans against a downspout waiting for the spider.
He pulls dandelions to give to his girlfriend.
He decides to write a series of his own haiku that girdle the earth
at his current latitude in New Mexico.

Paul adds Albuquerque to his key chain.
He performs sleight of hand tricks
with the coins set on eyes to pay the ferryman.
He writes carols for Easter, Arbor Day and All Halo’s Day.
He gives a damn, a good goddamn, as a tip to the cafe barista.

For three days, Paul pulls the oars in Charon’s boat as a temp job.
He directs thirty-two dogs to be the new church choir.
He totes a burlap sack of prayers to the mountain top.
Twice a week, he lends his legs to a paraplegic Afghan war vet
so he may run his own errands.

Paul’s stomach growls winter grizzly bears into wakefulness.
His hunger is the Gospel of Judas jotted on a daisy-cutter.
He locates a king standing next to a sword-less stone.
He stuffs his pockets with the poems and promises
found along the roadside on his latest walkabout.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney