We Worked and Worked

We crossed the stone wall—
rocks set upon each other
up to the knee.

There were holes between some rocks
as if smaller rocks should be wedged
to sustain the formation.

It was easy to cross over
but impossible to return
even to aid a friend who stumbled.

We’d been told the Mexican coyotes
brought undocumented folks
up dry stream beds

and that here drug mules
evaded federal agents
and their drug sniffing dogs.

We saw no sign of such maneuvers
engines of transport
or spotlights flicked on at night.

We found brooms stacked like arms.
There was a note attached
but we could not read it in the moonlight.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Rural Wind By The Border

It was more like the songs played us
after observing the dogs walking us.

A horse mulls about the pasture
trying to remember the lyrics to a torch song.

If you flag the Greyhound down
it halts and picks you up

without the nicety of a bus stop
but you better be going east or west.

A whisper stalked through
the cornfield this morning.

It gently told me something
I could not translate from its Spanish.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Dora sips
from the Rio Grande’s delta.
She tastes the farm chemical runoff,
the industrial waste.
She spits it out
as rain over

There asylum seekers
bathe in the river,
fill gallon sized containers
and carry them back
to a Tent City.

Dante never imagined this
as the shape of Purgatory
or how desperation
and violence pock
their penitent waiting.

Desperation splits families,
sends children alone
across Gateway International Bridge.
Small hands carry
childproof scissors
to cut the red tape
that binds their family’s freedom.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


More and more stories are working their way into the news of the violence that takes place in the cross border camps for people seeking U.S. asylum. How after too much violence, they send their children across the borders alone, because current U. S. policy will deny families their lawful asylum seeking entry into this country, but not unescorted children.

Child separation policies do tremendous damage to the children. They have all through history. We know this. We know it is part of the definition of Genocide. Yet educated people still make this sort of policy, then blame the victims. Why the Christian church (all the denominations) has not risen up in mass to protest this policy is beyond my understanding.

Fear and lack of will is what I blame it on. Using fear to garner votes. Lack of will to supply border agencies with enough money to adjudicate asylum claims in a timely manner. Lack of will to provide money for safe housing while people await their asylum claim’s resolution.

This is an Us and Them issue in many ways. Remember there is no Them. There is only Us.

If religious folks applied the Golden Rule to the situation and admitted they would never wish to be treated as we have treated immigrants, the will would be found.

Guess this is a soapbox morning.

Love & Light.


Come November

What she sees through her binoculars is not wild horses,
but a child bent to the ground examining a butterfly
drying its wings of dew in the risen light.

The thin sliver of smoke rising from beyond the ridge
might as well be the salty smoke of Sodom in ruin,
though she guesses it is an immigrant campfire.

But the analogy holds when she thinks about the emerging news
about Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Her family reads only Facebook and forms opinions accordingly.

Her dog perks up, sniffs the air, woofs.
Use to be, she would take a case of bottled water
to the migrant trail the coyotes blazed.

But the sheriff and border patrol now arrest people
for aiding and abetting the crossing of that invisible line.

She thinks not providing water to the thirsty
should be a crime against humanity.

She improves her Spanish
in an adult education class at the community college.

She knows she will vote for a new sheriff
in the autumn elections.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Stranger In A Sane Land

An ICE agent who separated children
from undocumented parents,
feels the fray of the cord that binds soul to body.

She requires our prayers to mend.
She requires the baking of bread from scratch
to fill her office with a sense of family.

Relocation is in her wellspring, her birth-home in northwest Georgia.
Relocation is in her genes, participants from Carson’s Navajo war.
Relocation is in her future as her job transfers her to El Paso.

She knows nothing of roots.
She knows little of family.
She knows she practices blindness, enforcing policy.

An ICE agent feels the desert salt burn her wounds,
like the earth rises up in dusty clouds to smite her.
She acknowledges how foreign this borderland is to her.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


The US government’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers has been much in the news the past year. So too over the past few days with the President’s threats to close the border. The separation of children from parents affected me in a very large way.

I figure ICE agents have internal conflicts with the policies they enforce. I figure they have their own stories that affect their outlook. I conjured up an ICE agent and wrote about a possible personal history.

I figure I needed to humanize ICE agents, instead of demonize them. This poem is one the results of that figuring.

Love & Light



A clot of colors
with my now clean glasses put on
turns into a crowd of people
waiting in doubled-back queues
to be loaded onto buses.

The blues turn out to be uniforms,
men and women in uniforms—
not police, but something official,
the federal government I guess.

All the other colors are dirty,
travel and sweat stains
that darken the reds into burgundy
and the yellows into gold.

The snippets of language
that traverse the no-mans land
between me and the people I observe
are obscene, guttural and English.

Each person in the queue
wears an ankle bracelet—
twenty-nineteen’s version
of blue serial number tattoos.

As the buses fill, I feel
I’ve seen this scene before
in archival footage
of black and white train stations,
of people carrying everything they own
from Germany
on their way to a solution.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


When I saw the TV footage of the immigrant family separation policies of the 2018 US government, I was both angered and crushed. I could not believe that sort of treatment to human beings was going on in the US again. I say again, as a reference to the horrible treatment by the US government in the past to African Americans and Native Americans.

My anger got me to donate money to organizations that are working to reunite sundered families, to donate money to organizations fighting for human rights and against human rights abuses.

I was crushed emotionally and had to cease watching the news for several weeks as I found it all overwhelming.

I do not comprehend how the ICE agents who enacted the policies could in good conscience go to their houses of worship on their next holy day. The separation acts are so against how I view simple human rights and human decency.

It was months before I could write this. That happens when the emotions are too big for words, or for the mouth to speak or the fingers to type.

Love & Light