If At First You Don’t Succeed

The dead come to Paul
for him to teach them love
so they may pass
heaven’s gate.

He is poorly equipped
to teach such lessons,
but promised his mother
to do his best.

The first lesson
was a mountain walk
among the aspens
to a place above the tree line.

They spent the night
and watched the fireworks
of the Leonid asteroids
streak the sky

which gave way
to thin lines of clouds
that thickened
and then snow fell.

Since the dead
did not feel cold
they were not affected
by dropping temperatures.

But Paul pulled
his coat close around his body
and so he pulled
the dead close too.

What little warmth he had
he gave to the dead
thinking the disparity
would cause wings to sprout.

Snow angels was as close
as the dead came to growing wings.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Off-White Parchment

Dora draws
thirteen symbols
with sacred geometry

and imagines Jesus
as a child
with a Spirograph

drawing set
doing similar works
and calling them all Stars.

Dora takes the symbols
cuts them out
in silhouettes

and holds them
up to her eyes
two at a time

so she might
see the dead
among the living

and their efforts
to rise up in pursuit
of new dreams.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The dead that haunt me
do so as angels
sent by God to assist
my growth
in all things human.

When the first arrived
I feared her dove wings
meant she might
fright-fly into a window
and break her neck.

But I learned
it was my mind
that placed wings
upon her back
and the attributes
of bird behaviors.

She exuded
a sustaining calm
that worked
like a pick
on the locked-off
parts of me.

The angels as a group
acted as a
flotation device
so the deep waters
would not drown me
as they flooded
my dreams.

The dead that haunt me
are light and vibrant
as if alive
in their prime
with moon-glow halos
and love
as their only tool.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Graduating Class

The dead passed me one night
moving single file
over a forested hillside
on a trail I thought
worn only by me.

They stopped at the spot
where I liked to look at stars
within a ring of stones
that contained no signs
a fire had ever burned there.

I noticed they wore
a variety of clothes,
many wore hospital gowns.
I guess they wore
whatever they last wore in life.

As they stood between the stones
they were asked
their destination,
in the voice of a train station agent
without a hint of judgement.

One by one they answered.
And their forms dissolved into cinders,
the types of which
I have seen emitted from
steam engine locomotives.

Once they were all departed
I mounted the knoll.
Between the crown of stones,
I found no trace of ash
nor heard any voice make inquiry.

I followed the trail back
and ducked through
the lighted doorway
into my cozy home,
where I leafed through university yearbooks.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

About The Living

About The Living

I wonder if when I go
rooting around in my memory,
if I annoy the dead
by thinking of them again.

I go through scenarios
where they grow like plants from the ground
or arrive like a stray dog
or fall back into life-like rain.

Once I took my vacation
to visit the exact location
the dead were last living
expecting an ethereal portal to be there.

Bloody rural New Mexico highway intersection.
Room 412 at a Denver hospital.
Outside a gay bar in Milwaukee.
And so on across the country.

Maybe the dead should get pissed at me.
Ghostly sleeping dogs.
Wraith thin white paper sheets.
Poems only about the living.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Happy New Year to all. And to all a bite of dark chocolate.

Love & Light.