Confluence

Unable to carve
in stone
Paul accepts
the penetration
of the tattoo artist’s
sharp pens.

Norse Runes
in a band
up and around
the arm shoulder
and back
as if flesh
was stone.

A story.

Her story
mirrored in an odd mix
of ancient
characters
approximating
modern words.

Once he wore
a talisman.
Keltic loops
woven serpentine
that disguised
a pentacle
and heart—
Love is Magic.
Was.

It lay with its twin
in her grave.
Gold for future
robbers and thieves
to excavate.

Also on him
Santa Muerte.
Mythology mix.
Modern adaptation.
Adoption.
Neo creationism
for what the spirit
requires.
Today.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Paul Creates Two Stacks of Documents

The one on the right is standard letter sized
eight & a half by eleven sheets
all white with black inkjet print
and stacks neatly as if ready
for a box.

The one on the left is random sizes
shapes colors from little cards
with cute mice eating seeds on them
to a drawing of a map
that emulates the world
as seen by Amerigo Vespucci
but in bright colored pencil
instead of faded ink.

The right stack could be poems
based on the irregular
amount of words and letters
and the spacing on them.
Eight hundred and twenty three sheets
all with a date from the calendar year
twenty-twenty.

The threat is the paper shredder
on a short table in between
the two stacks.

The threat is the last orders
(will and testament)
that spells out
in plain English
to destroy a life’s work.

These two stacks are just the beginning.
One studio closet is full
of manuscript boxes
and several portfolio cases.
And that does not count the walls
hung with framed work
or poems push-pinned onto plaster.

Paul opens a whiskey bottle
and pours himself a drink.
He swishes it about his mouth like Listerine.
Then swallows.

The power button on the shredder
glows blue after he presses it.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Twenty-Nine Years On

My father died
on the third of August
nineteen ninety-two
in an auto accident
when he mistook
a two-way stop
for a four-way stop
after surviving
the nineteen-eighteen influenza
the great depression
World War Two
the Korean War
the death of his son
and a heart attack.

At his funeral
and after we spread
his ashes
over the cornfields
he farmed
as a young man
his voice kept appearing
in my ears
with mixed messages
about how I handled
the death of my daughter
and other aspects
of being a man.

If his voice showed up
in my dreams
I could have
written off the experience
as the chaotic language
dreams use for the dead
to communicate with the living
even if their fist pounds
into their open palm
and shouts
I should embrace
the church and work
not therapy
to quiet my pounding heart.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sunset Under a Break in the Clouds

Bright west difference.
Night sky without constellations.

Forever unhinged.
Vertigo.

The sky is falling!
The sky is falling!

Terrafirma embrace.
Nearby horses.

Fewer names I am known by.
Limbs stirring July.

Pushups.
Tens of them.

Ones really.
Single digit planet.

Eyes transfixed.
Adobe brick church transept.

Pebbles in my shoes.
Journey slowed.

Muddy white laces.
Unbowed tied.

Dew wet.
The sky opens up.

An immense rain.
Not Noah big.

Arroyo wash out.
Three homeless

now embraced by
Poseidon? Yahweh?

Vishnu? Mohamed?
Rio Grande sandbar.

Flow rates
remain twenty percent of normal.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Commitment To Seeing It Through

There is an edge.
A stonewall in a meadow.
Moss covered ground stones.

The meadow is full of flowers.
Both sides just as colorful.
Just as lovely.

You are injured.
You drowse with your back against the wall.
Head bent under your broad brimmed hat.

Your gentle breath pushes the breeze.
Just as easily it takes the breeze inside you.
You are unaware of the sweat bees on your arm.

Within your sleep you feel stings.
It is not the bees.
It is the memory dream of a CSI episode.

The sun shines equally on both sides of the stonewall.
The wildflowers snuggle up against the stones.
In some places they are high enough to hide the low wall.

Your father stands on the other side.
Swallowtail butterflies decorate his bare arms.
His bare feet bear dirt from his walk to this location.

Your mother waits on this side.
She calls out to you to finish your math homework.
To come to the kitchen for milk and cookies.

Her calling wakes you.
You stand. The bees take their leave.
Your shadow casts itself across the stonewall.

Your shadow alters its angle on the other side.
Confused, you pull back from your father.
You notice the greenery grows at different angles as well.

You walk across the field toward your mother.
Not because she called you. But for yourself.
Nothing to do with television characters.

Who grow louder as you cross the meadow.
You return to the antiseptic room with white walls.
Your mother reads aloud a poem from Now We Are Six.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Retention

I remember my brother’s coffin
before it was lowered into the ground.

He was cremated.
His ashes placed under a maple sapling we planted.

Someone took scissors to my memory.
They collaged over one with another.

Maybe this dual remembrance is a casualty
of too many concussions.

I suffered three big ones over the years.
Maybe those residual blows dig holes in my brain.

Maybe grief of a lost loved one
digs a hole in the brain as well as the ground.

I feel your fingers filling the holes
like my brain is a bowling ball.

No. That was water filling the hole
with seasonal freeze and thaw cycles.

It is a long time extracting tears
from eyes told Big boys don’t cry.

I was not big at the time of my brother’s death.
But I was told that axiom anyhow.

Maybe those tears are the waters
that filled the brain holes.

Maybe my memories were printed
with water soluble ink

and bled into other memories
which explains my eating potato salad

at my brother’s grave side
in the shade of a maple grown tall.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Structure

When I die
mine me for precious metals.

Not just my teeth
but my whole body molecule by molecule.

As you make separate stacks
do not worry

that my soul
may be in jeopardy.

I assure you
it rises on the song you hum.

One from our younger days
when we hoisted a pint together

and sang out loud
joyously.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Crows Flying

In a dream
the crows came
to the place
where your body
lay dead
and clutched
your limbs
in their claws
then heaved
their wings
and bore you
into the sky
in a reenactment
of how
they once
lifted the moon
beyond the clouds.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Maple

We dug a hole to place a maple tree.
We placed Richard’s ashes at the bottom.

A memory tree to provide comfort and shade
especially on hot summer days.

It was also a witness tree
as it observed us growing beyond

the loss of our brother and son
and took in our lives as nourishment.

One at a time we abandoned the maple
moving on to new locations.

And the people who purchased the house
from mother after father died,

expanded the house outward and upward.
They cut down the Richard-maple.

By that time, we were not afraid to express
that he lived on in our hearts.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Extended

Paul reaches across
the universe
and nudges her

to draw her eyes
through the night’s
dark waves.

This short visitation
provides the chance
to say goodbye.

Paul returns
to blood and bone
to the fruitless sin

of being alive
beyond his daughter’s
count of days.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney