Shucked and Eaten Raw

Each time Lori
answered her phone
dopamine flushed
her central nervous system
clear of inhibitions
so she sang out loud
in public.

At night in a pub
others joined in
eyes torn from colored pixels
and disembodied transmissions.
Their inner ears
found new balance
returning lost feet.

At the sound of the chorus
eye-prisms broke light
into a mathematics remembered
from high school geometry
and applied goodwill
be grasped and stretched
like saltwater taffy.

Lori reconfigured songs
to reassemble friendships
shattered by misunderstandings
that flayed tender words
into hologram shadows
left low and dry
in floorboard cracks
by long ago spilled beer.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul sits in a bar with a beer.
He sits alone in the far corner.
He listens to the patrons talk.
He listens for a compassionate voice.

He hears a truck beep backing up.
He spies closed mouths keeping mum.
He views one man sleeping.
He hears gunshots as the door opens.

Paul hears a dog howl as the door closes.
A man at the unplugged mic rails against Jupiter.
A table of beached whales keen.
The juke box plays a chorus of prairie grass.

He listens to the entreaties of the homeless.
An unknown hand brushes against his.
A mumbled apology runs down his neck.
A woman with a long face hoists a pint.

Paul observes every couple is mixed race.
The glory of multiculturalism.
The daring of youth.
An oak tree shadow enters as the door opens.

He sees acorns tossed like bomblets as the door closes.
The acorns claim to explode transforming the bar to meadow.
It is their oak voices tunneling his brain.
It is the barbaric separation of mother from children.

Paul sees the final brushstrokes of sun paint the window.
He sees the afterwork-crowd press up to the bar.
They shine and shadow like Thanksgiving families.
Their blood-fire warms the room.

He hears the cocktail waitress ask if he wants another breath.
A peace-melody ties itself around his ring finger.
An acorn sprouts into a tree of hope.
Another settles into his belly and ignites.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul tried to wash
the imperialism out of his hands.

He had the wrong soap.

His hands still desired to hold a gun
and force his will on someone.

To force their language
out of them.

And their history.

Paul knew his hands
wanted to pin the phrase first class

on his own chest
and the phrase second class

upon those people he conquered.

He doubted Aristotle or Descartes
would approve

but was sure the Pope
and other Judeo-Christian leaders would.

Paul remembered reading Gilgamesh
and how the difference between

civilized and uncivilized peoples

was the ability to brew beer.
He did not know how to brew beer himself.

The corner store
sold his favorite craft beer.

He walked to that store and purchased a four pack
since that was how the craft beer was packaged.

Paul noticed the chilled beer bottle

enclosed by his hand
muted his hand’s desire for imperialism.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sunday Ritual

Jenny went around town
trying on weddings
until she found one she liked.

She sat in the seventh pew
of a Lutheran church
and imagined the handsome couple

having sloshy sex that night
after travel to an exotic destination
and too many sugary rum drinks.

At no time did she
place herself at the alter
as a substitute for the woman in white

but she did substitute herself
for the groom in black
to feel the custom fit tux upon her body.

When all was bells and rice and cheers
for the blissful couple
Jenny slipped away to a barbecue joint

to eat herself into indigestion
and then try to wash away
that sensation with beer.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Saturday Special

Cigarette after sex.
Long night of drinking.

Uninvited love.
Countertop predicability.

Big Hopes.
Four Horsemen Street.

Any City
with a bridge
and view of the ocean.

Broken Down.
Ten miles drunk.

Trying to time
the sunrise instant.

Rainy windowpanes.

Awash in bed linens.
Another chance.

verses reality.
Beer bottle.

White filter soggy.
Nothing funny.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul believes
he earned
something sweet.

He hoists
a pint of bitter

He measures
the conductive power
of a white lie.

Paul puts away
his verbal knives
but not his rapier wit.

He recognizes
how desperation
weakens his case.

He speaks over
his listening

The fruit
of his efforts
exits his proximity.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Horace Greeley

Paul lived with his girlfriend
until she brought home
a dancer statuette with a clock belly.

Its proximity prevented Paul
from painting, writing poetry,
and fielding hot grounders at shortstop.

He ate a bucket of fried chicken
and used the leftover drumsticks
to remove the clock’s unwholesome aura.

He tapped on the statuette
with the bones until he worked up a sweat,
but to no effect.

After the two of them dropped dumplings
fumbling around with chopsticks,
he decided it was time to go.

Paul was sure an unwritten rule applied
that allowed him to not be home
when she returned from work Tuesday evening.

He packed while she processed
insurance claims for incidental auto damage
such as a grocery carts rolling into front grills.

Even though he paid for the bathroom digital scale
he left it behind.
His copy of Hirshfield’s After he left behind by mistake.

Upon arriving at his friend’s to couch surf,
he noticed a total lack of trees and grass
at the apartment complex.

He decided to think this over with a couple beers.
On his way to the bar he passed speed radar
that flashed thirty-seven, his lucky number.

He never stopped for the beer.
He pulled onto the interstate instead,
blasted Bat for Lashes and headed west.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I was thirteen.
I was cast as a nineteen year old.

The casting director
was my thirteen year old friend who wanted beer.

I was cast
to walk into a liquor store and purchase a six pack.

He wanted Heineken.
We had just enough money for Red White & Blue.

Yes. Red White & Blue—
a brand of beer originally brewed by Pabst.

It was very patriotic.
It saw its best sales during World War Two.

It is a dead brand now.
Current Pabst executives consider resurrecting it, but don’t.

I was cast to be a nineteen year old
because I was six feet five inches tall at thirteen.

My friend was barely five-seven
in his stocking feet.

My friend thought I would do this bit of theater
for three of the six cans.

I did this bit of theater
for his Ron Santo autographed baseball.

The liquor store clerk
never looked high enough to see my young face.

My friend and I ran into contract difficulties
while making this a recurring role.

The next time he cast me to be nineteen,
I asked for his Ernie Banks autographed baseball card.

It would have been easier
to pry St. Peter’s bones away from the Pope.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Napkin manifesto
memory dump
public therapy session
with green gel roller pen
does nothing
to improve
neon sign diner’s
antiseptic food
and apron wearing
blue haired waitresses
whose financial planners
were as savvy
as discarded beer bottles
along the narrow gauge
rusted train tracks
and all the Tupperware
leftovers becoming
biological science

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Pub Food

On Tuesdays it’s quarter beer night
and two hot dogs are seventy-five cents.
That includes each and all of the traditional everything
that can go on a hot dog and bun.

Two hots dogs for seventy-five cents
brings the quality of the hot dogs into question,
unless they were purchased from some chain smoking mob type
at the back of a stolen delivery truck with the motor running.

The quarter beers are limited to domestic national brand taps,
not the local craft beers that are on tap as well.
Got to read the fine print of any advertising poster,
if you only have a dollar to your name.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


This is a nostalgia poem. I have not seen quarter beer night since the early 1990s. I have not had only a dollar to my name since the early 1990s either. I do remember the people sitting around the pub, eating bratwurst or hotdogs, drinking our beers and watching baseball in the general camaraderie of the pub. My memory has probably makes the times seem better than they were, but such is the way of memories.

Love & Light