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

Appeal

The debate cut its teeth
on the stone wall
and a solitary fright feather
drifted down
on an uneven path
where a boy crossed over.
It caused him to halt
with one foot on each side,
believing a snow flake
had fallen.
He lifted his head skyward,
mouth opened
to catch flurries,
but saw in heaven’s
persistent window
the mirror of his grave
freshly dug in the thick
cemetery grass.
He thought of his mother
crying out in grief
and wished to comfort her
but could not
un-straddle himself
from the stone wall
to return to his adobe home
through the landscape
thick with cholla
and the thrashers
that nested in them.
In this straight
he appealed to his
guardian angel for release
from spiritual obligation,
this errand of solace
for the bereft.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dented Carbon Fiber

Paul pinned a paper number
to the black asphalt.

He changed it every day
to reflect auto fatalities.

Of animals that is.
Especially flying insects.

He pinned it like he was angry.
He was angry.

These were numbers
he never invited into his head

or discussed over a beer
with Rudy.

Today’s number stretched across
one-and-a-quarter lanes.

Within three cars zooming over it
it was shreds, litter, ink

ready to bleed on the prickly pear
in the next desert rain.

Each night as dawn approached
a distant yelling broke Paul’s sleep.

A yelling inside his head
that did not sound like his deceased father.

Paul decided to use initiative
and print extra blank spaces left and right

so he might stretch the number out
like knifeless tape at the finish line.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Tortures Paul

He dreams of his daughter
snatched from his hands
by an American eagle,
magicked away by pixies,
torn away by wolves,
held for ransom by kidnappers,
floated out the window on a dark melody
by mysterious musical notes,
swallowed whole by a snake,
lifted skyward by the thumb
and index finger of God.

He wakes shuddering.
His hands feel so empty
they might as well not exist.
Touch cannot be trusted
ever again.

He can not shake this feeling
that he was pulled
far outside himself,
futilely trying to stop
the tragedy, holding on
until the predatory
Angel of Death
pried his fingers
away from dear life.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Unconsciously

Every moment of the day
I have the opportunity
of dying.

I know this from all manner of accidents
that have taken friends away
in the prime of their lives.

And so it is when a tree snake
swallows an egg whole
from a bird nest.

How do we find the courage
to drive the hectic traffic
at rush hour?

How do we find the pluck
to walk the rocky edge
of Sandia Crest?

Certainly not by calculating the odds
on spreadsheets
with arcane algebraic formulas.

Mostly by not thinking about it,
I think—just like I don’t think
about loving you. I just do.

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

Visitation

Paul mistook his voice
for a headstone hallucination
in the whisky shot aftermath
downed in salute.

There the voice was again,
with trillions upon trillions of miles
of heaven travel grime
spattered upon it.

It dripped with dark matter.
With Higgs bosons.
With a neutrino halo
caught in the gravity of Paul’s grief.

His voice bruised Paul’s ears.
Might as well have been a meteorite
slamming into Albuquerque,
cratering the day’s expectations.

The voice momentarily
fossilized Paul’s bones and breath
and tears fell from his eyes deepening
the scuffed bootblack on his shoes.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney