Punctuality Freak

Paul searched out his last breath.
It waited for him at a bar
twenty-two years and seven days
into the future.

His last breath knew it would take place
at a local hospital and not a bar
but the waiting period bored it
so it drank.

Paul thought to himself
that his last breath was well on its way
to becoming a lush, a drunk
and might well miss it cue and not be ready.

He tried to convince his last breath
to join AA and dry up
with the help of a sponsor
and new friends to buoy its spirits.

Paul’s last breath told him not to worry.
That it would sober up
when the bell sounded for Paul’s
last lap.

His last breath warned him
that it did not do dramatic last words
like Rosebud or Mother
but might utter a line

from a Shakespearean comedy
or something creepy
like an obscure IRS rule
about diminishing returns.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


When bars
outnumber churches
and the grocery store
is closed for good
small town America
the last plowshares
turn to rust
as the wind lifts
drought dry topsoil
to seed clouds.
Unlike Steinbeck’s thirties
California is aflame
and the only
available work
is stomping out
the inferno.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Not My Corner Bar

I sat on a barstool.
On both sides of me were attractive women.
They faced away from me talking to attractive men.

I sipped my Guinness.
I tore myself in two listening to both conversations.
I tore myself in two over a lot of mundane nothings.

I held myself together in the bar room mirror.
The mirror allowed me to see both women’s faces.
The one on my right wore a darker shade of lipstick.

She also showed more cleavage.
She also flicked her hair regularly with her left hand.
She also drank quickly and ordered another.

When I entered the bar earlier I thought I wanted a Guinness.
I was wrong. I wanted human interaction.
Bartenders are priceless while placing an order.

Here I was sandwiched between two interactions.
Neither was mine to share in.
I stole some of each interaction for myself.

After taking another sip I realized this was a downer.
I got up and left my half-full half-empty pint.
I left the stolen interactions as a tip on the bar.

Inadvertently I bumped the woman on my left.
I apologized but the man she talked to decided to stand up.
He got all tough and in my face.

I asked if he got all tough and in my face
to show off and increase his chances of getting laid?
Or for the fun of it?

Hearing me he had the good sense to back down.
Not because I am tough.
But because the muscular bouncer was on his way over.

Anyway the girl had grabbed his arm.
If he’d taken a swing at me he’d have elbowed her nose.
Maybe a girl on his arm was all he wanted?

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Last Call

Paul presses the tart O of his kiss
against a soft cheek
then recoils from the sharp slap
that raises a welt upon his face.

His tongue tastes the smoke
released from her resentment.
A flame flashes as his hand
refuses to let go her shirt sleeve.

He starts to pull her back
for round two with better aim,
but a low blow crumples his
bloated beer body.

Paul feels lumber hands
heft him as easy as an axe.
The door opens to neon, the moon,
the toss, the skid on icy concrete.

Immediate couples skirt
his sidewalk bruising
and brush against a blue Ford
as they retreat to the nearest home.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


At a bar, Lori hears last call.
All night poetry echoed off the walls.
So many stories like her own.
Hell at the hearth stone.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Funny thing happened on the way to completing this poem. It started out as seven quatrains. It seems I used a lot of unnecessary words in the first draft that distilled down to these four lines. Yes, I like that metaphor. Distilled. And what we have left is a good stiff drink. Chartreuse is my choice. Green over gold.

Sometimes I am so in love with my own voice I over-write a poem. I just get carried away in spite of the adage: brevity is the soul of wit. I ponder the possibility that my start in poetry was in slam poetry and the fact points were awarded more generously to longer poems. Three minute poems since that was the frame work of the classic slam poem of the 1990s. So an unintended consequence of creating an artistic reward structure. Even if the point was poetry, not the points.

Love & Light.


When I Stare Long Enough

A bar named Lawrence Henderson
sits at the edge of the Grand Canyon
to blur people into the hazy splendor.

The proprietor warns customers
against taking selfies near the edge
whether drunk or not.

He arranges the bathroom soap scraps
as the white squares of a chess board
five moves from mate.

He arranges his many patrons like pawns,
declares them a poem—
not a game to be won, lost or drawn.

Some folks think they enter a church
when they enter his bar, but the proprietor knows
the canyon instills that in them.

After a nine month gestation, Lawrence Henderson
decides he has seen enough, ceases to be a bar
and walks home, following the mule deer’s narrow trail.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


I have been to the Grand Canyon. Once when young and able to scurry down the river and back up in a day. Most recently a couple years ago to help my brother and his wife celebrate their 50th anniversary.

The idea I started with for this fancy was that viewing the grandeur of the Grand Canyon makes you drunk and blurry. So drunk, in Lawrence Henderson’s case that he becomes a bar that others may enter. Silly, I know. But I like to think of it as surrealistic.

I believe that immersing oneself in nature can be very curative for the soul. Story example is the 2014 Movie Wild. As regularly as I may I go into the foothills east of Albuquerque and walk. Some days I drive to the top of the Sandia Mountains or to one of New Mexico’s natural wonders. It does me good.

Even with Winter upon us, I hope you have chances to get into nature for your own well being.

Love & Light. Tree & Leaf.