Stealth Mode

You are
the twenty-seventh
coming of the Christ.

No one prophesied it.
Unlooked for
you quietly do good.

You learned your lesson
the first time
and do not antagonize

the church into seeking
a political remedy
for your anti-establishment leanings.

You wish to be
under social media’s radar
not particularly desiring

the world to appreciate reincarnation
or that there are
more than second chances.

This go-round
you present yourself
as non-binary

but continue to live and teach
the Golden Rule
and its platinum variations.

I am saddened that something happens
each time you turn thirty-three.
A car accident.

A drive-by shooting.
Some cross or another
to come down from.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Rate Your Pain

With zero being
why are you here
waiting for hours
for a data entry clerk
to speak to you
and finish
the endless screens,
consent, and
fiscal responsibility forms
after passing
identification and
insurance cards
back and forth
because your emergency
was not your heart
or sufficiently bloody.

And ten being
crucified on the cross
like any one
of Spartacus’
six thousand followers
on the Appian Way
between Rome and Capua
instead of the Christ
on the Hill of Skulls
so the idea
that anyone is saved
anything at all
by your agony
is a foolish notion,
while at the same time
promiscuous adolescents,
with the audacity
to laugh at your state
of helplessness,
throw stones at your ribs
like practicing fastballs
for a major league tryout.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hundred Hues

The world reassembled itself.
It had not really fallen apart.
Bethany’s perception of it fractured
in the glint of the storage unit’s
razor wire.

Only a guest in the hidden chapel,
the light through the stained glass
worked better for her
than Christ upon the cross
with his decorative piercings.

Bethany sharpened her sense
of broken-down-in-urban-America
so the pieces fit properly.
No light shined through rough edges.
No cold winds pressed bare skin.

She relaxed into herself
as if lying on a pile of raked leaves
with the smoke of other piles
thick in the air before cities
banned such fiery rehearsals.

Bethany heard the song of the world
and how flat and out of rhythm
her life-notes were within it.
And the counter melody
of the long scars upon her body—

her repeated dash in the buff
through a thorn bush thicket
thinking she could embody
the Christ’s thorny crown
under the watchful eyes of owls.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

World Full Of Omens

On a whim sprung out of nowhere
I begin to worship the crucified.
Not just the Christ, but anyone
who has suffered great torment.

Maybe it is not worship, but
a feeling of kinship
in the search for honor codes
that people strive to live by.

I guess I should include the monk
of that famous self-immolation video
from June of sixty-three
whose sacrifice was not honored.

Maybe it is to appreciate directly
through simple acknowledgement
all the acts of kindness I observe
each day

and how no one asked permission
or weighed whether it was a selfless act
or a calculated one on the learning curve
to prepare the soul for crossing over.

This trying to find words for a feeling
drives me a bit crazy—
like trying to ignore the monsters
emerging from my personal history.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Benefaction

One dawn I crawled
out from under the pews
and replaced the book
of common prayer
I used as a pillow.

On the cross
the Christ
seemed to be asleep,
so I tiptoed
not wishing to wake him
and jar him out of sorts
an hour before
the Sunday faithful
pinned their woes
to his flesh.

In the vestibule
a stack of polished oaken
collection plates
awaited the touch
of congregant hands
and the weight of money
as a secondary relief
from sin.

I seeded the top plate
with a dollar
on my way out.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Low Frequency

Some people who grow up never feeling loved
remain in motion afraid to stop.

While others turn into stone
unable to take the first step of any journey.

Paul walked into a church, lit a candle
and sought refuge from his loneliness.

It was not the image of Christ on the cross
or the story of salvation that he treasured.

It was the shadow of the cross
in the wavering candle light against the wall

and how in this heavy solitude no one asked him
for something he did not have to give.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ornaments

Because the statues
were so much plastic kitsch,
I found it difficult
to take the doctors seriously.

I took their
institutional questions as obscene
while sitting on frayed lawn chairs
on freshly cut grass.

We sat in a half circle
with the psych doctor opposite us,
wondering if our similar defects
make us kin or family.

I had not yet learned
your names or your ages
but the doctor felt at ease
telling everyone our middle names.

The doctor told us we looked beautiful.
Me with my white goatee.
Gale with the bandage around
a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her thigh.

Marla’s face still droopy
after the forced calm of a Thorazine night.
Carlos full of machismo in his wheelchair
knowing diabetes eats his remaining leg.

The doctor asked us to speak our truths
as if her pen was a magic wand
to move the stone over the cave entrance
to allow the Christ to rise.

We talked around metastasized memories
and treatment theories from previous occasions
spent with hospital bands around wrists
and rotations of others in the circle.

We nervously told pornographic jokes.
One of which keyed a lock in Gale’s mental closet
and the memory delivered a first round, one punch
knock out that ended the session.

For participation we were awarded
blue bubble gum cigars,
which lead to Groucho imitations
from the oldest of us.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ever After

Dora moves the stone.
from over the cave entrance

where the Christ had lain
three days until risen.

In this cave sleeps a metaphor.
In this cave hear soothing old whispers.

Dora finds a comfortable place,
builds a fire and sits.

On the bare wall rusts a mineral line left by water.
On the floor molders an ancient linen shroud.

Dora crushes reddish hematite pebbles
in a shallow granite bowl.

We blow dust, one palm print each,
on the sandstone wall. Right hand.

Right hand. Paleolithic graffiti-form
above the celebrated vacancy.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Twenties

I raise my right hand.
My left hand rests upon a pine bough
that will be pulped soon and turned into bible pages.

No swearing in takes place.
No cussing out takes place either.

This testament has something to do
with the many faces of Jesus.

I know there was only one Christ.
But so many people wrote the gospels:
Canonical, Gnostic, Jewish-Christian, Infancy,
reconstructed, fragmentary and lost,
from the first Matthew to last century’s Gabriele Wittek.

More gospels than I have fingers and toes to count.
Fewer gospels than sparrows & finches at my bird feeder.

I recall our last meeting—the Christ and myself.
A cafe with a Middle Earth motif.
I found her outside the front door
with a whimsical cardboard sign
made with a carbon-6 molecule drawing
requesting organic dietary supplements.

I ordered green chile cheeseburgers
and lemonades for us both.

She invited me to leave my body.
But I love Albuquerque, the beauty of its faults
and messy racial-cultural issues,
and refused to go.

The Christian inquisition
before which I testify
wishes proof of the girl’s divinity,
but I have nothing more to share
than her cardboard sign
with its black block lettering.

I mean, I just knew she was the Christ.

I just knew she needed help
so I declared her the Christ
to make it easier
to liberate twenties
from my wallet
beyond the cost of lunch.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Snag

Everyone flocked about the Madonna
and Christ Child in the Manger.

It was happy hour on Good Friday.
Nobody liked thinking about endings.

So they traveled back in time to the beginning
when the story was much simpler.

It was beautiful in a way.
Several women dressed in their cheerleading outfits

lead the gathering crowd in Christian catchphrases,
but it unsettled the manger animals and the donkey brayed loudly.

The magi’s arrival was a few years off.
Many in the crowd brought cases of cloth diapers.

Others brought soap, washcloths, towels
and portable basins.

The inn keeper did good business,
but the added crowd control expense made it a wash.

The poor collected and sorted the trash.
They marveled at aluminum cans and clear plastic water bottles.

Herod the Great had no trouble locating the new born Messiah
and put him to death shortly after the crowd dispersed.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

Okay. I admit it. This idea has been around for a long time ever since the early sci-fi writers explored the potential paradox of time travel. In one story, there were time police to make sure not too many people from the future visited the Christ in the Manger thus drawing attention to him. Wow. I read that a long, long time ago. Glad my memory found that storage unit.