Memorial Day

Thirty years to the day
after we spread dad’s ashes
in the cornfields of his youth

he stands in front of me
even after I pinch myself
to be sure I am not dreaming.

He is the younger version of himself
that I never met
being born twenty years into his marriage.

His lips move but no sound.
I ask him to repeat himself.
His lips move but no sound again.

I ask if he can bring Albuquerque rain.
He shakes his head.
I hear the mechanism click

that turns the water on
to the drip system in the garden
for butterfly bushes and bee balm.

He shakes his head.
He laughs soundlessly
and passes through the kitchen sink

to the outdoor barbecue
on Memorial Day.
I do not think chemists

who made World War II bombs
bigger and more explosive
are commemorated on this day.

In the Chicagoland house of my youth
we never had a barbecue
so why would he start now?

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

In Chicago The Underground Is Elevated

Meet me
at the Museum of Science
and Industry.

Leisurely we amble
through the exhibits
until we reach

the mathematical rooms
my father wired
as an electrician

working his way
through university
after losing his scholarship.

Upon completing the tour
of the U-five-o-five submarine
we stroll

around the east lagoon
to the harbor
and the fifty-ninth street beach

for a hot-dog lunch
that only a true Chicagoan
can properly relish.

copyright © Kenneth P. Gurney


I cannot
go to Quebec City
without thinking
of my mother
and how she
left it behind
for Chicago,
though the choice
was not really hers
since grandfather
moved the family
when she
was only two.

She did
not take up
tap dancing
or piano
like other girls,
but took
to baseball
growing up
six blocks
from Comiskey Park
seeing the likes
of Shoeless Joe Jackson
and Eddie Collins
but she never
cared for
Lefty Williams.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul wondered what happens
when a window looks sideways.

He had wondered this since
nineteen-thirty four—

fifty years before he was born
into a midwest city with a lot of snow.

Around the time young men become fathers
Paul wondered

what happens when he looks sideways
instead of inward or outward.

He thought this on a train into Chicago
when staring at other people’s irises

was frowned upon by some rules
he discovered were unwritten.

Paul looked out the train at the scenery,
but the sky was tinted green

just as the window glass was
and the daffodils looked a little sickly.

Realizing he noticed the hazel tone
of a passenger’s irises,

he looked down at his shoes
and felt he participated in some joke

his father used to tell on those days
he had to be a patient.

Involuntarily, Paul’s hand swiftly rose up
and struck his forehead.

Paul wondered what happens
when a window looks down

and sees it has no feet
for shoes to be worn upon.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul wakes up
one morning
on an unfamiliar beach
with palm trees,
fiddler crabs
and a deflated
beach ball.
He rolls over
on the sand,
face up
to the sky
and asks
a hovering seagull
how his Chicago
car crash
turned into
a tropical shipwreck.
The waves
crash the shore
as the tide
turns inward
and a loud drip
as each wave
recedes into itself
drums the gulls’ calls
into mechanical
whirls and
monitoring beeps
while a shadowy
places a cuff
about his arm
and pumps a ball.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul can’t sleep.
He sits up and the covers slump to his lap.
He grabs Peter Rabbit.
He is not too old for this comfort, though he is old.

He listens to the wind whip around the house,
to the heavy rain banging the swamp-cooler,
to the roof’s runoff trickling into the cistern,
to the house’s creaks and groans.

Paul thinks of his childhood, growing up outside Chicago.
How snow was always on the ground at Christmas.
How Halloween was safe for trick-or-treating kids.
How the movies were twenty-five cents a ticket.

He remembers the lake park and its swing sets.
How he would swing back and forth.
How he would swing up and down.
How he loved the timeless pendulum motion.

Paul falls back to sleep.
He still holds onto Peter Rabbit.
The covers remain off of his shoulders.
The swing’s rising and falling matches his breath.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shakespeare’s Sonnets

I am stuck.
My story moves on without me.

Some times people see my face reflected
in a mirror or plate glass.

It makes little difference if I run.
I cannot catch up.

I cannot catch a plane in Albuquerque
and land in time at Chicago Midway.

I fear for myself. This deviation
from fate’s script and crafted lines.

Will I now face the Spanish Inquisition?
Will I now walk an empty park void of birds?

I imagine this could be called freedom—
this being stuck for a time.

It gives me a chance to appreciate
all that it is to be human.

To enjoy my cup of Earl Grey
while reading Shakespeare’s sonnets.

It could be this script
is the one before the latest rewrite.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Location Sonnet

I may claim I moved off the reservation when I reached my majority, if you consider a ninety-eight percent republican Chicago suburb a reservation.

During my university semester in Germany, the locals refused to let me speak Auf Deutsch, so they might practice their English.

During that same semester, museum personnel misread my misprinted university ID card as Oxford instead of Rockford—I have dropped my R’s ever since, seeking to duplicate the benefits of misperception.

On our flight back to the U. S., a blizzard blanketed the midwest and east coast, so we were put in a holding pattern over the Atlantic. The plane got so small by the eighteenth hour, a hamster would not fit in that metallic tube.

I purchased my first cellphone when I lived outside Port Angeles, Washington. I walked to the top of the north hill overlooking the ocean to receive a signal.

When I lived in Taos, New Mexico there was no such thing as over-night delivery via Fed Ex or UPS or USPS. The family lawyers back in Chicago, despite their vast education and experience, could not fathom this.

I spent most of my one year living in Frederick, Maryland walking the Antietam battlefield. I cannot explain why I did not move to Sharpsburg, Maryland to shorten the commute.

Someday, in an effort to lose most of my sense of privilege, I think I should live in a location where I am the only white person for a hundred miles in all directions. Does such a place exist anymore?

Technically, as a white person, I am a minority in Albuquerque and in New Mexico as a whole. I never once felt minor.

Every summer day when the Albuquerque sunset paints the Sandia Mountains the watermelon color pattern that gave the mountains their Spanish name, I wonder why Nature fails to behave PC toward our African American citizens.

Albuquerque was named after Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 10th Duke of Alburquerque. I like to believe they dropped the first R for my benefit.

Albuquerque is nicknamed the Duke City. The Duke never visited.

In Albuquerque you learn the lovesick sound of roadrunners calling for a mate. At your most lonely, you never sounded that bad off, even with six pints of beer spilling your desperation on someone sitting next to you at the bar.

Twelve years in Albuquerque with its many Indian casinos on the city outskirts and I have never visited one to place a single wager. My biggest payoff on my Albuquerque bet was meeting Dianne.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Happy Independence Day (US) to you all. I trust you have lined up a joyous way of celebrating the 4th with plenty of friends of family no matter how much star spangled fireworks and festivities are in your day.

Sherman Alexie broadened my definition of a sonnet. I recommend reading his books whether poetry or novels.

My old (pre-Dianne) habit was to move every 1 to 4 years (usually 3 years) to a new location to explore the geography, history and culture. I am convinced the wanderlust had roots in tragedy with both searching and avoiding being part of the trauma process. Along the way I met a lot of really fantastic people, walked a lot of miles of trails, bicycled over 16,000 road miles, and learned I cannot adjust myself to fit in all cultures in the USA.

My tally is 9 states I have lived in. My favorite state is being in love with Dianne. New Mexico for all its poor ratings (48th, 49th or 50th in many government state rankings, such as education), is a beautiful place to live in with a great diversity of people. The only place I met a greater diversity was Washington D.C., especially on the National Mall with its tourists and locals and foreign & domestic politicians.

Love & Light



People took their senses and left.
They exited through a fold in time.
Their path was lined with palm fronds.
Their path was lined with paintings of palm fronds.

The moon stalls in the heavens above Chicago.
A layer of ice slicks Lake Shore Drive.
A whiteness flattens the landscape perspective.
A whiteness evaporated lifting everything.

People entered a backdrop constructed of Goodwill items.
A thick salt shaker glowed a phosphoric white.
Its glow burned eyeballs at ten paces.
Its glow burned a lattice of family silhouettes into memory.

The moon starts across the heavens.
It is done with showing us the same face.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney