Snow Globe Set on the Farthest Jetty Stone

Word’s fell out of Lori’s finger tips
to hide as beach sand
where she walked
waves lapping at her feet.

She touched every shell
in hopes of finding a full one—
eight legs scrambling
to set up a fighting withdrawal.

For hours the tide pushed
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
father up the beach
in receding triangles.

American driftwood.
American driftwood.
Chinese driftwood.
American driftwood.

Visionary seagulls
were happy to be off their meds
discharged from the psych ward
unlearning democracy.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


We sat on the beach.
The tide licked our feet.
Our arms set slightly behind us
propped us upright.
We sat close enough
to converse—not touch.
We listened.

The waves drew off anxiety
as they receded
to gather themselves
for another go
at splashing our knees.

An unattended dog
investigated us
She sniffed our salt-spay skin
then attempted to burrow
her head under my arm
then your arm.

The dog moved on
to children up the beach—
Godzilla to their sandcastle.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


May your hand
set upon your daughter’s head
be good and bestow blessings
as you locate encouraging words
for your voice to carry
to young ears.

This simple gesture
nearly lost in a thousand gestures
of parents with children
at a crowded beach
studded with sand castles
in various degrees of repair.

After noticing it
I stared across the horizon
to better view blessings past
when a familial hand
touched my crown
and encouraging words
were as good as birthday presents.

You placed a frisbee
in your daughter’s hand
and explained
the throwing motion again.
Your arm moved in demonstration.
You backed off ten steps
and joyously chased
her errant throw
into the waves.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shore Turn

We walked down to the beach.
A dozen whales lay out of the water.

The carrion birds told us
they were not alive.

The sadness of it all
unlocked something inside us.

We were only four in number.
We walked into the surf.

We unzipped our skins.
We swam out of the bay as whales.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Thought of the Owner

The ocean shrugs off
the broken boards of a boat.

They collect
on the rocky shore.

There is a telephone book
and a bottle of bubbly.

Over there an open guitar case
empty of all music.

And me. I did not wash up
but walked down

through the cedars
to listen to the surf

to the advance and retreat
of water through the rocks.

And because it is there
to hear how that sound differs today

with the scattered boards
and other items as they wash ashore.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Day Dream

I imagined years apart
how Paul would change
without my influence.

Technicolor hair
tattoos, piercings
and a muscle car.

A fire burns in him
with flames
that lick his face regularly.

And somehow
no drugs or booze
or anything synthetic.

We would meet again
surround by the Pacific.
An island like Tahiti.

Serendipity would have
brought us back together
where lightning struck the beach

and turned to glass
what was granules
an instant before.

Our first discussion in years
would be about
the horizon line on the ocean

dipping back into art school
two point perspective
and the Italian Renaissance painters.

But the conversation
would quickly shift to Gauguin
their common lifestyle

and the joys of cultural immersion
paint, the love of native women
and new foods.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Having No Other Explanation

Near our tent
on the beach
four ivory tusks—
large ones
like elephant tusks—
lay on the sand
in a geometric pattern
with the designer’s
washed away.

We were there
several days
before we realized
they moved
a few feet every night
toward the dune
that separated
the beach
from the parking lot.

You suggested
a phalanx of ants
hefted them
in the moonlight
using their super
strength ratio
to body mass
and teamwork

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

While Jogging The Beach

The wind whispers your body
as you veer out of the salt spray
onto the endless blond shore.

It tells you to pound your feet
into the wet sand
as if to jar the earth from the force.

You follow its orders
and your harsh body motion
upsets your aviators, tilts them askew.

Your pounding shakes loose
the deaths of a million fish washed ashore
and they take form around you,

flopping and throwing themselves.
The tide stretches a little farther inland
trying to facilitate their return.

Each tail that slaps the water
produces a lost message
once carried in a bottle.

From behind you the authors
of those messages emerge dripping
to congregate on the shore around you.

Their sheer numbers press upon you
while their empty loneliness
carries the suffocating reek of dead fish.

As your feet continue to pound the sand,
the authors pair up, collected
like unclaimed luggage.

They begin to leave, to seek seclusion.
In no time the beach is empty again, except for you,
your footprints, and the oblique curve of the shoreline.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Beach or No

Paul sits at the end of a beach.
In your mind do you see him
where the water meets the sand
or where the sand meets the grass?
Or way off to the left where the rocks stand tall?
Or way off to the right by the asphalt parking lot?

I will not be surprised by your answer.
Even if you place the end smack dab in the middle of the beach.
Our perception of the end changes as the fog drifts and rises.
The wandering dog changes our perception of the end as well.

What if Paul sat on the last grains of beach sand remaining?
What if Paul sat at the end of time on a beach?
What if Paul’s dog carried a stick from the other side of the ocean?

What if time is a song with inaudible lyrics?
What if we all inaudibly sing a part in that song?

Prepare to sing inaudibly. Your time is about to begin.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Grain by grain, the beach absorbs me.
Comfortable, I wait, but the process
takes so long my mind projects
a circus tent upon the nearby lighthouse
with acrobatic ladies riding dappled horses
in a circle of fog and mist.

Beached shooting stars turn into moonlight starfish.
A ghostly tall ship gently rocks off shore
as high tide removes the beach’s day-long work
or floats me upward on a million tiny life vests
or pulls me skyward on a tether of seaweed.

I stand up. Lobster front and snow white back.
So much for practice, letting the earth
take me in after death, ready
to redistribute my atoms and molecules.
Ready to view the smokey spirit world,
instead of roasting marshmallows
for s’mores around the fire,
fingers sticky with gooey chocolate.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney