Response in Silence

Paul spoke to me through a walky-talky
while he sat on a stone some distance away.

He told me he watched pigs eat
in a farm documentary

and felt his father’s summation
He eats like a pig was inaccurate.

I thought Paul ate like a wildebeest and said so
but forgot to depress the talk-button.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Buy Two

The first day
late in spring
that could be
called warm
the ice cream cart
peddled by
some old man
rang bells—
this is before
ice cream trucks
with recorded
music blaring—
and hearing
those bells
I went outside
to walk a few blocks
for the purpose
of dropped change
or soda bottles
to turn in
to the gas station—
back when bottle return
got you a dime
per bottle—
and then I would run
not walk
to the cart
which had moved
to a different street
or over to the ball field
in Memorial Park
and pray
orange Dreamcycles
were still
in the cart.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Parted Curtains

The sight of a flat and rounded stone
sparked in me the desire
to pick it up and throw it sidearm
to skip it over a placid lake
but a mirage fooled me
thus my thrown stone
passed between the wooden
window frames and through
your window glass Mr. Stevenson.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Darkening Fieldwork

My childhood house
was built on a hill side—
terraced walls observable
out the dining room
picture window.

Sunset was never visible—
only the buckets of blood red sky
way above the horizon.

A bee tried to apply
its definition of god
to the window glass
as it buzzed furiously
to get at the centerpiece vase
with its bright bouquet.

I found the bee asleep
on the windowsill
the next morning.

I lost my yellow Tonka dump truck
somewhere in a sandbox
construction project
when a catastrophic landslide
buried several toy workmen
we never found.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Everyone Silent

Whatever it is that scares you
does a magnificent job of being scary
if the birds cease twittering
and insects hide their buzz
from air now bereft of the slightest breeze
because the wind is too frightened
to move.

But I know you will be out there
with your wooden sword
and a blanket substituting
for a superhero’s cape
to deal with the monster
that guiltlessly kills without remorse
or seems mostly like a great maw
that gobbles things up
leaving behind a void
as if all matter was consumed
by a black hole rolling
across the neighborhood.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Factoring For X

Paul buried himself in fallen leaves.
He tried to capture something.
He tried to recapture his youth.
Traces of it existed in this action.

He played with the thought
if he fell asleep under the pile of leaves
he would wake up
at seven or eight years old.

Paul napped a little.
Mostly he dreamt his childhood.
The happy parts and imagination.
When there was a map and X marked the spot.

He emerged from the pile of leaves.
Paul reached up and drank a cup of the Milky Way.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


I thought I was home.
I was in the arctic.

I climbed out of my father
and left his body upon the ice.

The relative temperature felt the same
against bare skin.

I mean I left behind his behaviors I learned
through childhood observation.

I mean I never want my hand
to make a fist to teach a lesson.

Not even to punch a hole
through the darkness in search of light.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


My wallet has two dollars.
My pocket has eighty-seven cents.

Not quite enough to run away from home forever.
But enough to run away for the day.

My bicycle navigates trails and back streets
thirty miles to a lake park with herons at the shoreline.

A photographer documents wildlife’s adjustments
to encroaching urbanization.

I ask the burger clerk if she enjoys
being the poorly paid instrument of unrestrained capitalism?

She stares blankly to a spot three feet behind my head.
Do you want fries with that?

An hour after watching folks picnic at the park,
I head home with three hours before supper

to work out a believable story of my day,
knowing suppertime conversation requires it.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


By the time I was ten years old, I started to adventure on my bicycle riding farther and farther from home each school-less day. A favorite place to go was the Morton Arboretum five miles from our home. When I was that age, the outskirts of my hometown still had cornfields and farm silos attached to barns. Over the next seven years, Chicago expanded outward over the farms. I kept riding farther and farther west to reach visible farms, woods, and lakes.