Paul clings
to that one photograph
of his daughter
in her mother’s arms
from that first day
and when he looks
at the faded colors
he can still hear
his daughter yawn
her one big intake
of breath
before that
heavy blue
emerged under
her skin
and he fell
into a crevasse
that opened
in the hospital
floor while
the code sounds
became too distant
to comprehend.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


The dead
who did not tell
every story
they meant to tell
drift about
sounding like
the wind
through leaves.
They hope
the thin strands
of their stories
enter ears.

Paul sits
under a tree
tilting his head
at different
angles until
he catches
the threads
of several stories
that he believes
work like tethers
and will lift him
into heaven
come the day
he dies.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Over my regular glasses
I wear my dad’s sunglasses
that I took from his crumpled dashboard.
I drive out to the rural intersection
where he thought the stop
was four-way but was two
and pulled out to cross
two lanes of traffic.

As I expected the county sheriffs
did not sweep up all the small
broken bits of his car
letting traffic’s tires
push them toward the shoulder.
I search the debris seeking
a good luck keepsake that hung
from his rearview mirror.

Wearing his sunglasses
I see back in time
to his error in perception
and glimpse the truck barreling
around the curve with bad timing
or perfect timing, if you believe
in predestination.

From the corner gas station,
I purchase a cherry popsicle
and break it in two
to share it with my dad.
Still wearing his sunglasses
I see him slide in next to me
take the offered popsicle
and we share it like when I was young.

I never found the keepsake
among the bits of debris.
I left the sunglasses
by the side of the road
adjacent to a popsicle stick
with a trail of cheery red liquid
slowly navigating the asphalt
into the intersection.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


May your body
fit through the eye of a needle.

A jetliner is a strange tomb.
Coral will cover it up eventually.

In an air-pocket a tube of lipstick
and three tiny Seagrams bottles bob and float.

Cigarettes remain in your purse
never to be smoked.

May the ocean currents
empty your pockets of spare change and keys.

Air-travel anxiety blockers gave you
an otherworldly calm.

A bubble escapes your mouth
to slide up your cheek.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fiction Tool

Paul is old enough
that every Wednesday
he practices
being a mourner.

He finds strangers’ funerals
for his practice sessions
and makes up connections
if anyone asks.

Paul’s friends
are few enough in number
that no year could lose
more than one.

He finds loving
the unknown deceased
both fiction
and odd comfort.

Paul employs this fiction
with the live people he meets
in hopes he will make
a few more friends.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Draft Day

Leon died in the middle of analyzing stats
before making his next fantasy baseball selection.

The pigeons at his window did not notice.
The people on the street did not notice, either.

He had created many pages sorted by position.
He had ranked each player.

Some of the players were crossed out in pencil.
Others were circled in blue ink.

There was an asterisk beside Mad Bum.
There was an em-dash into the margin by Anthony Rizzo.

The maid found him slumped over his desk.
His laptop computer open to a draft webpage.

She knew better than to clean his study.
Or straighten his papers with rows of numbers.

A number of instant messages prompted him
to make his next pick.

The top message informed him he timed out
and lost the pick for that round.

An email waited in his inbox informing him
he had been disqualified from the league

for not completing the draft
and his entry fee would not be refunded.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul imagined his mother’s grave.
Rain pelted it.
A branch fell torn from a tree.
The headstone toppled.

He wondered why his imagination
failed to produce snow
so deep as to hide
the graveyard.

He decided it was because
his feelings toward his mother
were not as cold as snow
or sleet or hailstones,

but more like a wind that injures trees
and innocent bystanders.
Old unexpressed angers
vented into the ether.

Paul planned a drive back to Denver
on some spring day
when the first thaw drips icicles
from tree branches and gutters.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Today’s entry was posted a couple hours later than usual due to the internet being down in our area for several hours.

Post Mortem

Father’s emptiness
spilled into every corner of the house.

His emptiness evicted his feelings.
Emptiness chilled him through and through.

Our house became the house of held breath.
Our house became the house of tangible absences.

In the yard we planted a memorial tree.
Its growth rings recorded a thousand confessed remorses.

Nothing I tell father goes past his ears.
His void does not carry sound.

Mother, broom in hand, swept emptiness
to the living room and under the carpet.

The house thought it protected the world
behind hidden doors.

After a year, the emptiness was a thin layer
of ash and dust still warm from the furnace.

After a year, I answered when my parents
called me by my brother’s name.

copyright © 2020 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

To The Living

The pandemic contains
a lot of moments
my emotions
must work out
before my face
displays how I feel.

It also contains a lot of static
that clings to my brain,
calculating and decoding
noise for signals
that can be labeled True.

I picture the possibility
of writing my own truth
and repeating it over and over
until others sing it back to me,
but that, once attempted,
failed to return John Prine
to the living.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney