Fiction

Most of my life I stayed away from the family farm.
Whenever I visited the family put me to work.

This is why I, a magic marker salesman, know
how to milk a dairy cow by hand.

My family on the farm has heard of the Covid pandemic.
They think of it as the nineteen-eighteen influenza redo.

Three of the goats amble in and out of the house.
They like to lie down on the guest room floor when I nap.

Grandfather sustains a quarter acre of prairie.
It reminds him of what his grandfather plowed under.

When I visit I think of my stay as a prison sentence
for psych-patients learning calm from animals and sweat.

All the poems I write while visiting I collect into a folder.
A label on the folder says Memoir written in magic marker.

After each farm stay, I am a bit more callused on the hands.
This does not stop me from writing a thank you note.

I post the thank you note near midnight.
I do this so my friends do not see me appreciate my family.

This way I can complain about the sunflower
that stares in the window when I exit the shower naked.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Positive

Paul lifted a baseball bat
swung it downward
and smashed a bar of soap.

He felt it betrayed him
and had to feel
the consequences
of his positive covid results.

He felt no better
for all the soap fragments
and their exploded grenade
shrapnel pattern.

Paul packed a small
cotton bag
with fresh pine needles
to remind him
of the outdoors he loved
while he convalesced.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Tyranny Sonnet

Pandemic face mask tyranny.
Stop sign tyranny.
No littering tyranny.
Stay off the grass tyranny.

Clean up your dog’s poop tyranny.
Slower speed in construction zone tyranny.
Professional licensing tyranny.
Restaurant health code tyranny.

Water quality tyranny.
Dumping trash tyranny.
National Park land conservation tyranny.
Currency tyranny.

Golden rule tyranny.
Love thy neighbor as thyself tyranny.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

A Dark Body of Clouds

A dark body of clouds enters my brain.
It is a line from a poem.
It is a covid fog slowing my thoughts.

It is not I who caught covid, but Cathryn.
Being my friend, I share her burden.
This dark body of clouds.

Happily it does not cause dark thoughts.
The fog causes people to think she is a ditz.
In this shared existence I am thought a ditz as well.

The darkness is how cruel people can be
when their expectations go unmet.
Thunder voices hurl insults at our covid slowness.

We could hurl insults back at their ignorance.
We could hurl stick or stones.
In tandem we remain silent.

If we could find ninety-eight more people
to share Cathryn’s burden
each of us would carry one-percent fog.

Thus disperse the dark body of clouds
back into a line of poetry.
Oh darn. I cannot think of the poet’s name.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

The poet whose name I covid-fog do not remember in the last line of the poem is Mary Ruefle. The title is a variation from her poem title “Darke Body of Clowds”. It is found in her book “Indeed I Was Please With The World“.

I do hope you (dear readers) have gotten your covid-19 vaccinations. Cathryn is one friend who has long haul covid difficulties. Over the past 15 months several acquaintances passed away from the attack of the virus upon their bodies. So I hope you take the virus seriously.

Place A Finger

I have worked hard
to feel something
that resides below
the rage and wreckage
of this pandemic year.

I know what it means
to wake each morning
and wonder if today
my luck runs out
in a madcap state
in a war of wills
amid the discarding
of the concept
the public good.

So few today believe
they owe our country
for our decades of peace
and prosperity—
except in war.

As the air grows cold
and flurries fall
every sneeze and cough
sends minor tremors
through my spine
and worries me
until my breath clears.

The isolation
creates an aloneness,
which is different
than loneliness.
This solitude
has spawned
an unfamiliar
feeling for which
I reach about
for a name.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

The Dead Extending Outward

Paul and Dora
ended up tallying
all the people
lost to the pandemic
and trying to
remember each
and every face.

As an exercise
they attempted
to list them
alphabetically
and then by height
so that
different indexing
might catch a few
they missed
before.

Dora decided
on a community
Christmas project
where one farolito
would be placed
for each passed soul
and no dickering
over heart complications
or diabetes
disqualifying someone
from the count.

Paul suggested
they use a
black Sharpie
to write one name
per brown bag
in the manner
of the Vietnam Memorial
on the National Mall,
but in order
by date of death.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

How We Bend

A dozen drops
dot the window.
A low yield cloud.
A dark teasing.
Mocking thunder.
Skull echo chamber.
Wine glass on the table
reverberates,
moves millimeters.

The phone rings once.
Election season.
Poling questions.
Unexpressed selections.
Seven weeks out.
Weight of lies.
Hands ready to blacken
little ovals.

My pandemic face hides loss.
A count to three.
Remorse springs
from long silences.
The dead might as well
have been disappeared
by the Administration.
Hands rough
from washing.
The grocery’s spare shelves.
My dog does not
recognize me
in my black mask.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Blank TV Screen

The dance of dragonflies enchants me.
When I become stressed out
I return to them.

During a time of pandemic
all paths walked are trails of tears.
The enemy microscopic soldiers
commit an insidious blue violence.

As much as I try not to judge
there comes a point
when I am too pissed off not to.
And I must restrain myself
from beating the shit out of the deniers.

Contact tracing informed me
a belligerent mask-less man in my grocery
tested positive and asymptomatic
in the hour I purchased
the season’s first peaches.

I howled for that man to be charged
with reckless endangerment,
for him to pay for my covid testing
and hospitalization if it occurred.
And if I died, to up the charge to manslaughter.

I spent the rest of the day
at the edge of the pond with dragonflies
dancing in front of my sofa.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

This is a fiction designed to provide space for my frustration with people who flaunt the mask wearing orders of our governor. They are quite vocal and belligerent the few times I’ve happened upon them being denied entry into grocery stores and home improvement big box stores.

Expansion

Thank you for wearing a face mask
as you look from the outside through the window to see me.

Thank you for the lines at the edge of your eyes
that tell the nature of your smile.

Thank you for walking my three-legged dog
while I am blighted.

Thank you for painting mountains on the window
knowing how much it heartens me to see them.

Thank you for your personal appearance
even though you could FaceTime from home.

Thank you for holding up an unrolled yard of sod
so I could be refreshed by green grass.

Thank you for playing bird songs during our conversations
so I could feel my backyard in this hospital room.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney