Under a Palm He Reads

Paul kicked a ball.
It roll across the parking lot
toward the beach.

A woman banged
two cooking pans.
Seagulls took flight.

A man standing
in benediction pose
blessed the changing tide.

Paul kicked the ball
farther down the beach
past crushed beer cans.

The woman chased
sand pipers
and the seagulls returned.

The tide floated
eleven tossed wafers
and diluted the poured wine.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

April First

Paul receives an invitation to a dinner party.
It includes an inkjet print photo of him.
In the image his body is small on a cool beach empty of volleyball.
His body is circled in red marker.
The red wicked into a slight bleed on the porous fibers.
Hand written in blue ballpoint are the words You will enjoy the party.
Printed in fourteen point Times Roman is Please RSVP.

He knows what RSVP means in the modern vernacular.
But not what the letters stand for.
He types it into a search engine.
It is French. Répondez s’il vous plaît.
Respond, if you please.
What if he does not please?
What if he prefers to watch Home Alone on the telly?
It would be the seventeenth time.
It is recorded so he can zip through commercials.

Paul digs the envelope out of the recycling.
He should have tossed it in the shredder pile of papers.
It has no return address.
He examines the invitation front and back.
There is no time, date or address.
He decides the invitation is a frenemy messing with him.
The hand written words are masculine lines.
It is probably Dave’s boyfriend.
Dave’s birthday is two weeks from Tuesday—tomorrow.

He should go out and purchase Dave a birthday card.
Not right now. Later. Tomorrow afternoon.
Paul and Dave have been friends since grade school.
They have not spoken in person for five years.
It has nothing to do with Dave’s boyfriend.
It has a little to do with Dave being gay.
They run in different circles.
Paul runs in squares.
Dave does not like square people.

Paul sets the invitation in the recycling.
He looks again at the photo of him on the beach.
He wears his leather jacket and red kepi.
That was late spring of this year.
Opening day at the ballpark and he did not have tickets.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

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