Greener Grasses

In my month of tending family plots
in the village cemetery
I noticed not one member of my family
rested for eternity within this gated community.

My tendency to open whiskey bottles
folks left for the dead
went unnoticed
as acorns fell from stately oaks.

I set shot glasses into the sod
and filled the clear glass to the white line
only to learn my efforts turned
a stray dog into a lush.

I wondered if the little dolls
leaned against gravestones
felt abandoned by the survivors
or were happy to be by their loved one?

Once they wilted, I removed all the flowers
that failed to fill open wounds
of the huddled bereaved
who muttered words they meant to say in life.

Some days whispers licked my ears
and I thought the dead a bit forward
with all their advice on how to outlast
bottles and jukebox dancing to last call.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Appeal

The debate cut its teeth
on the stone wall
and a solitary fright feather
drifted down
on an uneven path
where a boy crossed over.
It caused him to halt
with one foot on each side,
believing a snow flake
had fallen.
He lifted his head skyward,
mouth opened
to catch flurries,
but saw in heaven’s
persistent window
the mirror of his grave
freshly dug in the thick
cemetery grass.
He thought of his mother
crying out in grief
and wished to comfort her
but could not
un-straddle himself
from the stone wall
to return to his adobe home
through the landscape
thick with cholla
and the thrashers
that nested in them.
In this straight
he appealed to his
guardian angel for release
from spiritual obligation,
this errand of solace
for the bereft.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Visitation

Paul mistook his voice
for a headstone hallucination
in the whisky shot aftermath
downed in salute.

There the voice was again,
with trillions upon trillions of miles
of heaven travel grime
spattered upon it.

It dripped with dark matter.
With Higgs bosons.
With a neutrino halo
caught in the gravity of Paul’s grief.

His voice bruised Paul’s ears.
Might as well have been a meteorite
slamming into Albuquerque,
cratering the day’s expectations.

The voice momentarily
fossilized Paul’s bones and breath
and tears fell from his eyes deepening
the scuffed bootblack on his shoes.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lichen Crusted Stones

At seven years old
I imagined
the Bad Behavior Cemetery
was where
the school principal
buried all the wicked kids
he hit too hard
with his wooden paddle.

I placed it next to
the post office
where parents
sent postcards
and letters
to their lost children
who waited out purgatory
for judgement day.

Early All Halos day,
after refusing
to collect candy
trick-or-treating,
I snuck in there
to search
for my brother’s
headstone
since my mother
did not know
where he was buried
and I wanted
to see it.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Joins In As One

Her perfect voice
remains silent.

When she says, I love you.
It penetrates marrow deep.

When we walk the cemetery
her fingers twine with mine.

A white stone marker has no name
and halts our progress.

There is space enough
for both our names.

We muse about crossing over together
and what awaits us.

A cello ushers in the night.
Her perfect voice joins in as one.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Proximity

I used to drive
the dirt and gravel
forest roads
the state highway department
created to receive
more federal highway dollars
a couple of times a week.

Some of those roads
had once been
wagon trails
based on the ghost towns
I passed through:
five or six separate buildings
in various states of decay.

Where there was room
to pull over and park
I sometimes found
boarded up holes
where men once prospected
for precious metals,
some with rusted frames
for lifts in and out.

I found a family cemetery
not far from a char-scored chimney
with three headstones
cut with dates and names
distinguishable by shadow
and touch.

I deciphered
the name Jesus
on one of the stones.
And I found,
regardless of the reality
the Spanish words conveyed,
I preferred thinking
the Christian savior
was buried right here
on this mountain.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney