Holiday Oddity

Paul insisted on wrapping lies
around an awkward truth.

He wrapped both in Christmas lights.
Colorful LEDs to save energy when plugged in.

His drunken faith justified
tobacco unrolled from cigarettes

tossed on the Yule log as it burned
to keep Santa away from our chimney.

Paul buried himself in a flatscreen football game
and counted the girls in advertisements

amazed that they now look more human
in the sense of varieties of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Through all of this he made himself tolerable
somehow reading our faces

as his invisible dials tilted toward self-loathing
by the time the eggnog ran out.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Inequity

Paul sat with a woman
at the bus stop.

They were with each other
without being with each other.

Unbeknownst to each of them
they shared a destination.

Paul heard the woman’s feet
complain about blisters.

The woman heard Paul’s feet
complain about blisters as well.

They both stared forward
not really acknowledging the other.

Christmas lights across the street
decked out Santa and his Sleigh.

There were reindeer too.
But no Rudolph with his red nose.

Paul and the woman cocked their heads
at the sound of a siren.

Snow began to fall.
More flakes landed on Paul.

The woman did not notice
this unfair distribution.

The bus arrived and splashed
snow melt onto the curb.

Paul let the woman enter the bus first.
There were plenty of open seats.

The bus driver paid Paul no mind once he paid.
He sat two rows in front of the woman.

A sign advertised the Frida Kahlo exhibit
at the art museum on the lake front.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Arrival

Paul stands alone
in the crowded town square.

Market day and he
just stepped off the bus

duffel bag in hand
a blue kepi on his head.

Pendleton wool jacket
over blue jeans, over boots.

New town. New Job.
New friends to be made.

A tarot reader insists on
an eight hour minimum wage day

to hint at fortune
and future.

Paul notes the market’s attendants
from bejeweled upper class

to grimy huddles
of the homeless.

A girl smokes a cigarette.
It clouds her beauty.

A Christmas tree blinks
adjacent to a gazebo

where a mariachi band
plays Christian holiday standards.

He types an address
into his smart phone—

two point three mile walk
to an empty apartment

and, being Sunday,
no heat or electric

until tomorrow
after his first day on the job.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Pendulum

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

Three Questions

Do you believe in theological lollypops?

When I was young, I licked
the Good Samaritan parable
up one side and down the other.

Now?

Too many theologians
ask parishioners to strap bombs
to their bodies and detonate
in public places
to prove their love for god.

What about Christmas?

Only if there is snow enough
to give me pause between breaths,
looking at the dotted sky
knowing there is a yule log
in the hearth to be burned
through the twelfth night.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney